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Hudson River PCB cleanup from GE Superfund site more than half done

The site of riverfront development in Hastings. (Aug.

The site of riverfront development in Hastings. (Aug. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Nancy Siesel

An update on the cleanup of General Electric's Hudson River Superfund site, one of the most hazardous waste sites in the country, will be presented by state and federal officials on Jan. 16 at a public forum hosted by the region's leading environmental groups.

The free session will present a detailed review of issues related to PCB contamination of this 200-mile that runs from Fort Edward upriver down to New York City.

Scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m. at the Marist College Boathouse in Poughkeepsie, the event is sponsored by Hudson Sloop Clearwater of Beacon, Riverkeeper of Ossining, Scenic Hudson of Poughkeepsie and the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City.

With the cleanup finally past the halfway mark, forum topics will include an overall progress report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and an impact analysis on the river's fish by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Officials will also be looking for ideas from the public for revitalizing the river and restoring damage to wildlife and the environment.

Up until now, most public meetings about the $2 billion cleanup have been held upriver, said Manna Jo Greene, Sloop Clearwater's environmental action director, which is why this forum was scheduled.

"The people in the mid-Hudson area have not had a chance to be updated on the progress of the cleanup," she said. "This is an ongoing project for probably the next seven years and even longer, if you count the restoration phase."

Until the 1977 EPA ban on the use of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, GE factories in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls discharged about 1.3 million pounds of toxic waste into the river over a 30-year period.

Most of the contaminated sediments have settled in a 40-mile "hot spot" section of the river between Fort Edward and Troy Dam. While the problem has been contained, "it has definitely affected the lower Hudson because the river is a turbulent, moving system and small amounts of PCBs get washed downstream," Greene said.

GE started the cleanup in 2009.

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