Phase 1 of PCB removal on Hudson wrapping up

By | October 12, 2009

Phase 1 of PCB removal on Hudson wrapping up

Crews dredging a polluted stretch of the upper Hudson River this year battled high water, old logging debris and unexpected levels of PCB contamination that slowed progress.

But as the first phase of one of the most costliest and complex federal Superfund projects wraps up this month, regulators say results are generally positive and show dredging can work. They are already preparing for a far more expansive second phase, which would clean up 40 miles of river and likely push total project costs over $700 million.

“We took on Mother Nature. She threw everything at us but the kitchen sink, from timber, to boats that were sunk, to tree branches,” said George Pavlou, acting regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. “We prevailed in the end.”

Dredging began in the rural area in May after decades of argument over how to deal with tons of PCBs that flowed down the river in 1973 after a dam was removed. Upriver General Electric plants in Fort Edward and neighboring Hudson Falls discharged wastewater containing PCBs for decades before the popular lubricant and coolant was banned in 1977. PCBs, or polychlorinated vinyls, are considered probable carcinogens.

Under an agreement between General Electric Co. and the EPA, the company paid the cost of dredging concentrated pockets of PCBs this year about 40 miles north of Albany. GE treated the toxic waste at a nearby “dewatering” plant and shipped the dried remains by rail to a western Texas site for burial in a landfill designed to isolate the treated PCBs from the surroundings.

Crews managed to dredge 10 of 18 PCB “hot spots” targeted this year. They removed more than 240,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, but expect to fall shy of the original target of 265,000 cubic yards when dredging ends mid-month.

Progress was slowed because contamination was often deeper and more concentrated than expected. In some areas, crews removed 60 to 80 percent more sediment than expected, said GE spokesman Mark Behan. …

via Phase 1 of PCB removal on Hudson wrapping up – Yahoo! News.

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