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GE to continue PCB dredging in Hudson

Associated Press / December 24, 2010

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ALBANY, N.Y. — General Electric Co. said yesterday that it will proceed with the next phase of PCB dredging in the Hudson River under terms laid out last week by federal environmental regulators.

The Environmental Protection Agency had said the company must remove more PCB-tainted sediment from the river and will have to take better samples of the river bottom when it resumes dredging.

“We engaged in intensive and constructive discussions with EPA, and the agency’s decision reflects our discussions and many of our proposals,’’ Ann Klee, GE’s vice president of Corporate Environmental Programs, said in a statement.

The EPA refined standards for the work after a review of the first round of dredging in 2009. The goal is to remove as much tainted sludge as possible from a 40-mile stretch of the river north of Albany, one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites.

“The decision sets us on a clear path to a cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediment that is based on the best science and will remove huge quantities of this dangerous chemical from the river,’’ Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator, said in a statement.

Environmental groups said the new standards will ultimately mean a cleaner river but criticized the EPA for allowing GE to leave and cap PCBs in up to 11 percent of the project area, not counting rocky or other hard-to-reach areas. When those trouble spots are included, the new standards mean up to 21 percent of the area could be capped.

GE, which is based in Fairfield, Conn., said it will take an after-tax charge of $500 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 to help pay for the work. The company said the goal is to resume dredging in late spring.

GE plants discharged approximately 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls until 1977, contaminating nearly 200 miles of the Hudson. These potentially cancer-causing chemicals can build up in fish, posing a serious risk to those who eat them. GE has spent $561 million on the project.

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