11 March 2003
Cleanup in Upper Hudson Is Delayed for Another Year
By KIRK JOHNSON
dredging of the upper Hudson River to remove the toxic residue of
its industrial past — already stalled many times by squabbles
over science and culpability — has been delayed again.
environmental officials said yesterday that an additional year would
be needed for planning and design beyond the three years already
allotted. That means that the first scoop of polluted mud would
not be removed until spring 2006 at the earliest and that the projected
completion date would be six years later.
federal Environmental Protection Agency's regional administrator
for New York, Jane M. Kenny, said in an interview that the complexity
of the project — and the need for good relations with anxious
upstate residents whose communities will be affected — were
the main causes of what she called a "slipping" of the
schedule. The government, she stressed, remains committed to the
project, which will be one of the largest environmental restoration
efforts in United States history at a cost of nearly $500 million.
eyes are on the prize; we're going to be dredging this river,"
she said. "But we want to make sure it's done safely and done
expressed dismay that the slow pattern of the past was continuing.
"It's discouraging to see so early in the process a one-year
delay, and raises concern about what kind of delays we'll see later,"
said Ned Sullivan, the president of Scenic Hudson, a conservation
group based in Poughkeepsie.
environmentalists, including Mr. Sullivan, said they feared that
the General Electric Company, which polluted the river with PCB's
from its plants north of Albany, then battled the government for
years over how and whether to clean up the mud, was behind the delay.
company used PCB's, or polychlorinated biphenyls, for about three
decades in its factories in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls. By the
time Congress banned PCB's in 1976, as much as one million pounds
or more of the oily yellow insulating chemical — a probable
human carcinogen, according to the government — had leaked
or been spilled into the river, where much of it settled to the
company spokesman, Mark L. Behan, stressed that the request for
more time had not come from G.E. Mr. Behan said the company had
met every deadline set by the government since the final decision
to dredge was announced in the summer of 2001. The first core samples
to pinpoint where the dredging should be concentrated began last
fall, and the first lab results, he said, were recently delivered,
right on schedule.
Kenny at the E.P.A. agreed that the government had made the decision.
She said making sure that local residents, many of whom are skeptical
about the project, have ample opportunity to participate in the
planning process is all by itself a major undertaking.
the dredging starts, one or two huge plants must also be built to
remove water from the dredged mud, as well as an extensive system
to haul the mud away by rail or barge, since the government has
promised local communities not to use trucks for transport because
of concerns about traffic volume and air pollution.
a related development, a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan
ruled yesterday that documents related to the negotiations between
G.E. and the government over the Hudson cleanup were subject to
the federal Freedom of Information Act and should be released to
the public. The New York Public Interest Research Group had sued
the E.P.A. and the federal Office of Management and Budget seeking
the papers, but government lawyers said the documents were confidential.
judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein, held that the exemptions cited by the
government did not apply.