Several towns and villages that take their water from the Hudson River filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday asking that the Hudson River PCB dredging project be delayed a year.
The estimated $750 million environmental cleanup project is scheduled to start in May on the upper Hudson River.
The towns of Halfmoon, Waterford and Stillwater along with the villages of Waterford and Stillwater and Saratoga County jointly filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albany, said Waterford Town Supervisor John “Jack” Lawler.
The lawsuit includes a request for a temporary restraining order that would require the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Electric Co. to delay the start of the PCB cleanup project while plans are made for safe, alternative water supplies for the communities that currently take their water from the river or whose wells have been tainted by PCBs from the river.
“We were forced into this position,” Lawler said Wednesday night. “We tried to negotiate with the EPA.”
Lawler was at the Stillwater Central School auditorium, where EPA and state Health Department officials were discussing river water issues connected to the upcoming dredging project. Between 250 and 300 people attended the information session.
“Delay the dredging another year,” Lawler said to loud applause from the audience. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The lawsuit asks the court to force the EPA to provide a safe alternate water supply for Waterford, Halfmoon and Stillwater during the entire six-year project. Lawler said the suit also asks that the EPA and/or GE pay for the difference in water costs while the communities use the alternate supplies.
The legal papers were filed by the Dreyer Boyajian law firm of Albany.
Stillwater Supervisor Shawn Connelly said his town, which gets some of its drinking water from the village of Stillwater’s well field, needs to have a safe, secure water source just like the towns of Waterford and Halfmoon. Testing has shown that the Stillwater well water includes PCBs from the Hudson that infiltrate the riverside well fields.
The EPA and GE are spending $8 million to bring a water line from Troy under the Hudson to Waterford and Halfmoon, which take their water directly from the Hudson River.
David King, the EPA’s dredging project coordinator, said the EPA has offered to spend $1 million to build a temporary carbon filtration system at the village of Stillwater’s water plant. He said this double carbon filtration system would remove between 95 and 99 percent of the PCBs from the well water. He added that the EPA is also studying connecting Stillwater to the new Saratoga County water line next year.
King said the Troy water option for Waterford and Halfmoon would be used only when PCB levels in the Hudson went beyond the safe drinking water level, 500 parts per trillion. The two towns want to use Troy water throughout the entire project and don’t want to wait until PCBs are found coming downriver into their water intakes during dredging.
The EPA ordered GE to pay for the project in 2002. GE capacitor plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen — into the river for 30 years, ending in 1977, when the government ruled it unlawful.