GE study: No need to expand Hudson River cleanup
Friday, December 27, 2013
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — General Electric Co. said Friday a study requested by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shows no need for it to voluntarily expand dredging already underway in a portion of the upper Hudson River contaminated with PCBs.
GE said the scientific and legal analysis shows wildlife in the area is healthy, and any concern about the company getting hit with future liabilities for environmental damage is speculative.
DiNapoli had asked for the review in a shareholder resolution as trustee of the state pension system. He withdrew the resolution after Fairfield, Conn.-based GE agreed to the study earlier this year.
Environmentalists have long been pressing for additional dredging of contaminated sections outside the current Superfund cleanup site north of Albany.
The company discharged about 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, used as coolants in electrical equipment, from its capacitor plants during several decades until 1977.
"It is not possible, of course, to conclude definitively that GE has no future liability with regard to its Hudson River PCB discharges," Ann Klee, GE's vice president of corporate environmental programs, wrote in a letter to DiNapoli. "Based on the information available to the company, however, we see no credible legal or scientific basis to conclude that future liability, if it exists at all, can be reduced by a voluntary expansion of the EPA dredging project."
She cited ongoing state and federal studies that have concluded "Hudson River wildlife populations are robust and thriving."
DiNapoli spokesman Eric Sumberg said the comptroller's office is "assessing this report and its potential impact on shareholder value. We will give careful consideration to appropriate next steps as we move forward with our review."
In one of the largest and most complex Superfund projects ever undertaken, GE agreed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to remove PCBs from a 40-mile stretch of river at a cost estimated to reach about $2 billion. The EPA believes the dredging will clean the river of PCB contamination and eventually make the fish safe to eat. There are currently consumption advisories for fish from the river.
GE just completed a fourth season of dredging. It says it has spent more than $1 billion so far and removed 1.9 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments, about 70 percent of the expected total. Dredging is expected to continue for two more seasons, followed by a third season restoring habitat.
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