Saratoga County

Residents reject EPA’s water stance

Waterford and Halfmoon residents told federal officials again Monday that they are determined, for h

Waterford and Halfmoon residents told federal officials again Monday that they are determined, for health reasons, to use only water from Troy during the upcoming Hudson River PCB dredging project.

But federal officials said again they can’t promise Troy water for the entire, six-year project, just the final two or three years.

About 500 people filled the Waterford-Halfmoon school auditorium Monday night to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to provide Troy drinking water to the two towns during both phases of the estimated $700 million dredge project to remove toxic PCBs from the upper Hudson River.

Both Waterford and Halfmoon take their water from the Hudson River.

“You are not willing to pay $600,000 per year,” said Waterford town Supervisor Jack Lawler about the cost of providing the two towns with safe drinking water during dredging. “That just isn’t fair,” Lawler said.

The EPA and General Electric, the company paying for the large-scale environmental cleanup, have agreed to spend as much as $7 million on a new water line going from Troy, under the river, and extending to the two towns’ water treatment plants.

EPA officials said Monday the design of the new water line is 90 percent complete and work is expected to start in late summer so the water line can be ready for the start of the dredge project in May of 2009.

“Are we expected to drink water for five years from a contaminated site?” asked Lawler.

“We will never drink water from the river when you start dredging,” Lawler said to EPA officials. The crowd answered with thundering applause.

“It’s morally offensive, I’m outraged,” Lawler said about the EPA’s water use directives. He asked the EPA officials to find a way to keep the two towns “out of the river” for the entire project.

The EPA said that during the dredging project’s first phase the only time the EPA will pay for Troy water is when PCBs are resuspended at a level of 500 parts per trillion or more, the federal water safety standard for PCBs.

Lawler introduced Dr. David Carpenter of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.

Carpenter, considered an expert on the health effects of PCBs on humans and animals, explained how dangerous PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, are to humans and animals.

GE plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward discharged PCBs into the river for 30 years, ending in 1977 when the practice was banned.

Carpenter said PCBs have been proven to cause cancer in animals and are a probable cancer causing agent in humans.

He listed other diseases and health problems associated with PCBs.

Carpenter said he is a staunch dredging advocate but told the EPA that the towns of Waterford and Halfmoon should not be taking their water from the Hudson anytime during the six-year dredging project.

David King, director of the EPA’s Hudson River Field Office, explained what the EPA can legally do to keep the water safe for Waterford and Halfmoon residents.

He said during the one-year, first phase of the project, the dredging will be in the northern end of the river, near the towns of Fort Edward and Moreau.

King said there will be ample time for monitors on the river to pick up any harmful resuspension of PCBs during dredging. When this happens dredging will be stopped and Waterford and Halfmoon will be switched to Troy water.

The EPA and GE will pay the difference between what water normally costs the two towns and the higher cost of importing Troy water into their systems.

When dredging gets closer to the intakes of the Waterford and Halfmoon water plants in the project’s second phase, the EPA and GE will pay for Troy water throughout the dredging season.

Jeff Opalka of Waterford, who attended Monday’s loud and boisterous information meeting, said in his mind the facts about the safety of drinking Hudson River water during the dredge project aren’t clear.

He, like many others are the meeting, said they think the federal government and GE should pay the $600,000 each year so town residents can drink water they know is safe.

“I didn’t expect to change minds [at Monday’s meeting],” Lawler said about the EPA. But he said he sent out letters to residents urging them to attend the meeting to put “public pressure” on the federal officials.

“The law is against us,” Lawler said about EPA regulations. “We need to fight this with everything we can.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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