New York environmental officials may support PCB dredging in Hudson River

A New York State newspaper has reported that it has obtained a confidential letter from a leading environmental official to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), supporting the dredging of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) from the Hudson River.

Officials would not confirm the report, but the letter is said to be written by state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, John P Cahill, to EPA Administrator, Carol M Browner, stating that PCBs discharged from the General Electric Company’s manufacturing plants into the river pose “unacceptable risks” to human health.

An EPA cleanup plan, due to be released next month, is expected to call for “active remediation”, a term used for dredging. The estimated cost of the cleanup could be as much as $1 billion, which General Electric would be forced to pay.

General Electric is said to have used PCBs for more than three decades as an insulating fluid in electrical capacitors. Officials from the company oppose the dredging and contend the technique is a destructive practice unnecessary in the Hudson River because PCB levels in fish have declined and the industrial chemical is being naturally buried by sediment. General Electric is reported to have spent millions of dollars on a public relations campaign against dredging.

State officials are also reported to have said that they adamantly oppose the creation of a local landfill in which to store the dredged contaminants, and recommended off-site disposal.

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