Saratoga County

Feds take acres for PCB cleanup

The federal government has used its power of eminent domain to acquire 44 acres from the state ne

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The federal government has used its power of eminent domain to acquire 44 acres from the state near the upper Hudson River and Champlain Barge Canal for the Hudson River PCB cleanup project.

Part of the land is in Fort Edward where a multimillion-dollar river sludge processing and dewatering complex is nearing completion on the canal. The rest of the land is on West River Road in Moreau where a marina is being built for the dredge project.

“It won’t delay the project,” said David King, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hudson River Field Office in Fort Edward.

The first phase of the large-scale PCB cleanup project is scheduled to start in the spring.

King said Wednesday the non-adversarial taking of the state Canal Corp. property in Saratoga and Washington counties was the fastest way to convey the property to the EPA for the dredge project.

“It’s all worked out,” King said. “We can cut them a check.”

The condemnation proceeding took place in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York over the past year. The case was finalized this week.

The civil action was termed a “friendly condemnation case” in which both parties, the federal government and the state, agreed on a fair market value on the property, according to Andrew Ames, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman.

The federal government will pay the state $355,660 for the 44.37 acres, Ames said on Wednesday. He said such a condemnation proceeding is termed “friendly” because both parties agree on the price of the land.

King said the EPA will own the wharf along the barge canal and a two-mile access road into the sludge processing site as well as the marina in Moreau.

The access road was built last summer by contractors for General Electric Co. and the wharf where barges filled with PCB-contaminated sludge will dock is just about finished, according to Mark L. Behan, a GE spokesman.

The wharf is 1,500 feet long. The barge canal near Lock No. 7 on the upper Hudson in Fort Edward was also widened 60 feet in the wharf area last winter so there is a “passing lane” for other canal traffic, Behan said.

Preliminary work has started on the marina on West River Road in Moreau. This marina will be used by GE contractors and federal officials as a staging area for a variety of project-related boats other than the sludge barges, Behan said.

He said GE was not involved in the condemnation proceeding but understood it was a “friendly condemnation.”

King said that when the PCB cleanup project is completed — currently estimated at six years — the property acquired by the federal government will be turned back over to the state. He said the state will then again own the improved 44 acres as required by federal law.

The EPA ordered GE in 2002 to pay for the estimated $700 million dredge project on the Hudson between Fort Edward and Troy. GE capacitor plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls discharged PCBs into the Hudson for 30 years ending in 1977, when the practice was banned.

PCBs are described by the EPA as a probable carcinogen that also cause other health problems in humans and wildlife.

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