A lawsuit that threatened to delay the Hudson River PCB dredge project for another year has been dropped, clearing the way for the start of dredging later this month, officials said Thursday.
The towns of Waterford, Halfmoon and Stillwater; the villages of Stillwater and Waterford; and Saratoga County filed legal papers in U.S. District Court earlier this year seeking to delay the start of dredging until 2010.
The reason for the court action was to give the federal government and the General Electric Co. time to provide a safe, alternate source of water for the communities that take their drinking water from the Hudson River.
“We agreed to withdraw our lawsuit without prejudice,” Waterford Supervisor John “Jack” Lawler said Thursday.
He said the towns, villages and county dropped their request for a dredge delay because the Environmental Protection Agency has met its obligation to provide alternate water to the municipalities.
The alternate water will come from a recently completed $8.2 million pipeline that runs from Troy, under the Hudson, and into the water systems of Waterford and Halfmoon. The EPA and GE paid for the alternate water line.
“We were successful in getting our conditions met,” Lawler said. He referred to the towns’ battle to get the EPA to provide a safe, alternate water source during the dredge project, which could take six to 10 years to complete.
David King, director of the EPA’s Hudson River Field Office in Fort Edward, said Thursday that a stipulation agreement was approved this week that drops the request for another delay in the long-awaited, and often-delayed, Hudson River cleanup.
“It’s certainly good news,” King said.
The EPA ordered General Electric Co. in 2002 to pay for the estimated $780 million dredging of the upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy to remove sediment containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen. GE capacitor plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls discharged the PCBs into the river for 30 years until the federal government banned the practice in 1977.
Contractors for the EPA, including W.M. Schultz Construction of Ballston Spa, have been working on the Troy-to-Waterford water line since last fall.
David Rosoff, the EPA’s on-scene project coordinator, said the new water line was successfully tested this week in both Waterford and Halfmoon. The state Department of Health has also reviewed test results and project details and has approved the startup of the new line.
The EPA says it will pay for the difference between the more-expensive Troy water and the cost of Hudson River water to the two towns only when river water test monitors show PCBs have been resuspended by the dredging and are present in a concentration of at least 500 parts per trillion.
But EPA officials note the towns can start buying and using Troy water from the new pipeline any time they want to.
The towns maintain they should be using Troy water, and the EPA should be paying the cost difference, throughout the entire dredge project.
Lawler said Thursday that the towns’ and villages’ lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking for compensation from the EPA and GE for the increased cost of Troy water remains and has not been withdrawn.
“We refuse to pay the increased cost for Troy water,” Lawler said.
He said buying water from Troy will be 15 percent to 25 percent more expensive than filtering and treating Hudson River water at the Waterford water plant.
Rosoff said a $1 million carbon filtration system for the village of Stillwater’s well system is nearly complete and will be tested this week and soon be operational. The Stillwater wells are located near the Hudson River and their water was found to have low levels of PCBs. The carbon filters will remove more than 95 percent of the PCBs from the water, the EPA says.