Saratoga County

PCB dredge hearing wraps up

General Electric Co. and Environmental Protection Agency officials on Thursday both said changes

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General Electric Co. and Environmental Protection Agency officials on Thursday both said changes need to be made in the way PCB-contaminated river sediment is dredged from the upper Hudson River during the cleanup project’s second phase.

Consultants and officials from GE and the EPA each told a seven-member peer review panel of scientists and engineers what they think should be done to improve on last summer’s first phase of dredging.

For example, GE experts said that if the exact depth of the PCB “hot spot” to be dredged is known, then a dredge could make a single pass, rather than repeated passes, to remove the majority of the toxic chemicals and then quickly cap the location with sand or crushed stone so no more PCBs escape.

EPA officials, on the other hand, have a list of six dredge production variables that the federal agency feels were “resuspension drivers” during last summer’s first phase of dredging. Suggested changes in these variables include reducing tug boat traffic or changing the way the dredge buckets are used.

The comments came on the final day of a three-day review by the panel at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls.

Paul Fuglevand, a professional engineer with Dalton, Olmsted & Fuglevand of Kirkland, Wash., and chairman of the peer review panel, asked GE and EPA to decide how the panel should proceed.

The current schedule indicates that the panel will issue a final report with recommendations on changes by late July.

However, GE officials said they are doing what they consider to be an important computer model of the upper Hudson that will predict how many PCBs would be resuspended into the upper and lower Hudson during the large-scale environmental dredge project.

John Haggard, GE’s project manager, asked if the review panel would like to wait and see the results of this computer model before completing their report. An EPA official said the peer review is supposed to end May 6 and the report written from the information developed by GE and the EPA by that date.

The second phase of the estimated $780 million project isn’t expected to start until the spring of 2011.

The dredge project’s first phase, conducted in the Hudson between Fort Edward and Moreau from last May through November, was marked with four incidents of PCB resuspension that required the project be stopped until the PCB levels in the water went below 500 parts per trillion, the federal drinking water standard.

The peer review panel members said they would be willing to consider additional information from GE and EPA but this may delay when the final report will be issued. Officials from GE and the EPA will decide early next week what they want the peer review panel to do.

Panel member Todd Bridges, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., said the panel members could take what they currently know and produce a report on schedule. However, he said with the EPA issuing a 211-page addendum to their phase 1 project evaluation on Monday, and GE saying it wouldn’t have its river model information until mid-June, it might be better to wait.

The EPA in 2002 ordered GE is pay for and conduct the environmental dredging of a 40-mile stretch of the Hudson between Fort Edward and Troy.

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