ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Federal regulators said Thursday they have no problem with General Electric dismantling a Hudson River PCB cleanup plant as six years of dredging wraps up, even though government advisers had asked to keep it in place while they assess results of the $2 billion cleanup.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the company could use a new, temporary facility if additional dredging is required. The agency also said it doesn't see any agreement in sight for the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company to do more.
The Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees, a three-member group of government officials, had asked the EPA to delay dismantling the 100-acre "dewatering" plant as they assess progress cleaning up decades of PCB pollution from GE's capacitor plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.
For decades until 1977, the plants released PCBs, a probable carcinogen that can cause other harm as well in humans.
In asking for the delay, the trustees wrote to the EPA that the river appears to be recovering more slowly than initially predicted and the possibility of future dredging shouldn't be foreclosed. With higher-than-expected concentrations of PCBs, it could take decades longer than expected before some fish can be safely eaten with greater frequency, they said.
The trustees are making assessments of the total harm done to the river's resources, which could lead to either a settlement with GE over the company's liability or to litigation.
But GE said Thursday that it is successfully completing the cleanup ordered by the EPA and no further dredging has been required.
"Within days, GE will finish removing the majority of PCBs from the Upper Hudson River in one of the largest and most successful cleanups ever undertaken in the United States," the company said of the Superfund project. "EPA has determined no further dredging is necessary because the dredging project is achieving the goals of protecting public health and the environment."
As part of the cleanup, about 310,000 pounds of the chemical were removed from the river in 2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment, the EPA said. The project covered a 40-mile stretch of the river north of Albany. GE will now move on to cleaning floodplains along the river and the plant sites.
Two trustees — a representative from the federal Department of the Interior and another from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — signed the letter; the trustee from the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation did not. The 2-1 split signaled disagreement over what will be required of GE in the future.
The EPA said it continues to meet with the trustees and will share data on environmental damage.