The towns of Halfmoon and Waterford were ordered Friday to provide access for a new water line that will be extended into the towns as part of the Hudson River PCB cleanup project.
The administrative order and its timing angered elected officials in both towns.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced late Friday afternoon that the town of Halfmoon and the Waterford Town Water Authority have not granted the EPA permission to cross town property for a $6 million water line that will bring water from Troy to the two towns.
“The failure of these entities to provide the requested access to the properties in a timely manner threatens to delay the start of construction of the water line, increasing the risk that it will not be completed before the scheduled start of phase I dredging in the late spring of 2009,” says an EPA statement.
The administrative order by the EPA was issued according to federal environmental laws that were created to prevent delays in large toxic cleanup projects.
The EPA ordered General Electric Co. in 2002 to design and pay for an estimated $700 million PCB dredging project in the Hudson between Fort Edward and Troy. GE capacitor plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward discharged approximately 1.3 million pounds of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen) into the Hudson for 30 years ending in 1977 when the practice was banned.
Both Halfmoon and Waterford take their drinking water from the Hudson River. The EPA and GE are paying for the water line from Troy, under the Hudson, and connecting to the water treatment plants of the two towns.
Halfmoon Supervisor Melinda Wormuth said she and her Town Board are not concerned about having the pipeline extended across town property.
“We see [the pipeline] as a vital necessity,” Wormuth said.
The only thing Halfmoon asked of the EPA was a letter promising that the dredge project would not start until the pipeline is installed and ready for use by the two towns.
“There is no problem with it being on town property,” Wormuth said.
Wormuth also said she resented the timing of the access order. She said town offices were closed when the order was issued about 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The towns of Waterford, Halfmoon and Stillwater want the EPA to provide them with a safe alternative water source during the six-year dredging project in the event that PCBs are resuspended in the river during dredging.
“We certainly want the line,” said Waterford Supervisor John Lawler.
Lawler says he resents the EPA “shoving it down the throats” of Waterford and Halfmoon at the last minute.
“This is thuggish behavior,” Lawler said. “They are in a mad rush to start this project.”
Lawler said the town water authority is considering taking legal action against the EPA over the issue.
Both Waterford and Halfmoon have been urging the EPA for months to not only install the water line but also help subsidize the additional cost of buying Troy water throughout the entire dredge project.
Wormuth said it appears that the EPA does not care about the 30,000 residents of Waterford and Halfmoon and the students who attend the Mechanicville school district and receive water from the Hudson.
Kristen Skopeck, a EPA spokeswoman, said Friday about 20 property owners have already given the EPA permission to cross their properties with the water line.
The EPA is expected to announce next week the successful bidders on the installation of the 4.5-mile water line. She said work on the water line is expected to start in about two weeks.
“We believe we can get it into place prior to dredging,” Skopeck said.