GE Expects to Complete Dredging Of PCBs in Hudson River in 2016

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By Gerald B. Silverman  

Dec. 30 --General Electric Co. expects to fully resolve its remedial liabilities for cleaning up the Hudson River in 2016 and doesn't expect to expand its long-standing project to remove polychlorinated biphenyls beyond that time, according to a report from the company.

The Dec. 27 report said additional dredging is not warranted because the current project will meet the cleanup goals established by the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, it said a separate natural resource damage assessment being undertaken by state and federal agencies is still years away from completion and unlikely to result in significant future liability for the company.

The report was prepared in response to pressure from state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli (D), who filed a GE shareholder resolution earlier this year. DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the state's pension fund, filed the resolution out of concern that the company could face future liability costs, but withdrew it in exchange for GE's agreement to prepare the report .

“Because GE is implementing EPA's selected remedy, there is no additional long-term liability associated with remediation of PCB discharges,’’ the report said. “GE's implementation of the remedy fully resolves the Company's remedial liabilities associated with the river, and GE retains no residual remedial liability outside specific, narrowly defined exceptions that are unlikely.’’

EPA recently concluded that the project had achieved the agency's cleanup goals and was protective of human health and the environment, the report said. GE therefore said it does not anticipate that EPA will revisit its conclusion and reopen the remedy.

“Under the terms of EPA's Consent Decree with GE, even if the Agency were to reopen the remedy to expand the dredging project, it cannot hold GE responsible for that work absent new (and previously unavailable) information to support a determination that the currently delineated dredging project fails to protect human health and the environment. GE is aware of no such information,” the report said.

$1 Billion Spent on Project.

GE, which has spent about $1 billion on the project, has removed almost 2 million cubic yards of sediment from the upper Hudson River. A total of 2.65 million cubic yards will ultimately be removed from a 40-mile stretch of the river, under the remedial plan for the superfund site. GE is the sole responsible party for the cleanup because two of its manufacturing plants released some 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the river over a period ending in 1977.

“We thank GE for undertaking the analysis requested in the Common Retirement Fund's shareholder resolution,’’ Eric Sumberg, a spokesman for DiNapoli, said in a statement. “We are assessing this report and its potential impact on shareholder value. We will give careful consideration to appropriate next steps as we move forward with our review.’’

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of the Interior are “trustees’’ undertaking a natural resource damage (NRD) assessment that is separate from the EPA superfund project.

“The substantial technical work that has been completed by GE and the trustees and described in many academic articles shows that the natural resources along the upper Hudson River are thriving, healthy, and robust,’’ the GE report said.

“Species by species, the scientific review of considerable data demonstrates that populations and ecosystems show no signs of the types of injuries that might give rise to NRD liability--and certainly not a significant NRD liability that might justify any large-scale pre-emptive dredging.’’

Tina Posterli, a spokeswoman for Riverkeeper, told BNA in an e-mail that “GE is dodging the issue and delaying the inevitable day of reckoning on its (natural resource damage) liability.’’

“We had hoped they were done with such tactics, but so be it and on to the next round of the fight,’’ she said.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerald B. Silverman in Albany, N.Y., at gsilverman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com


The GE report is available at http://www.hudsondredging.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/HudsonRIverProjectReport.pdf.