This year’s PCB dredging in the Hudson River will include a difficult-to-reach stretch of the waterway that requires a special solution, General Electric officials said.
Most work during 2014 will take place in the 14 miles from Schuylerville to Stillwater, but will also include dredging between two dams north of Schuylerville that make the river difficult to access.
Around-the-clock work on what will be the fifth season of dredging operations will begin in May, weather permitting, company officials said.
Dredging began in 2009 near Fort Edward after decades of debate and litigation over cleanup responsibility. GE says about 70 percent of all the PCB-contaminated sediment to be taken now has been removed.
In all, 40 miles of the river from Hudson Falls to Troy is to have “hot spots” of polychlorinated biphenyls removed in what’s considered the largest environmental cleanup in U.S. history.
The work removes PCBs, considered a likely carcinogen, that were from GE plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward prior to 1977. GE is paying the entire $1 billion-plus cost.
Dredging is expected to be finished next year, with restoration work scheduled for 2016.
This year, GE said creative provisions are being made for working along a two-mile section of the river near Fort Miller that is inaccessible by boat because of two dams.
In the two-mile stretch between the Thompson Island and Fort Miller dams, contractors have come up with a way to load dredged sediment into barges, rather than to truck it away, as was originally proposed.
Working from a support area on shore, contractors are expected to use a crane to place smaller dredging devices and hopper barges into the water.
As barges are filled, a long-reach excavator will transfer the sediments to land, and then a second excavator will move the material to a barge in the Champlain Canal, which goes around the dams in a separate channel. That barge then will move the sediments to GE’s Fort Edward PCB processing facility.
A total of 160,000 cubic yards of sediment in that area is to be removed from 29 acres of the river’s bottom, GE officials said. Clean fill then will be put into the river.
Work started Wednesday to build the support area on the west side of the river in Northumberland.
GE spokesman Mark Behan said Friday that there isn’t expected to be any impact on the nearby Hudson Crossings Park, which sits along the river near Champlain Canal Lock 5. Barges bringing loads of sediment from downriver will use the lock, however, as they did last year.
Tim Kruppenbacher, GE’s Hudson River Project operations manager, said the plan ensures that an inaccessible area of the river will be dredged, and that sediments will be shipped to the processing facility by boat, rather than by truck, “reducing the impact on people living in the area.”
Kruppenbacher said the state Canal Corp., town of Northumberland and landowners all cooperated in coming up with the plan.
The dredging work is being done under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.