WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Tuesday ordered tons of PCBs removed from New York’s upper Hudson River, setting in motion one of the largest dredging operations in the nation’s history.
General Electric Co., which dumped 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the river before the substance was banned by the federal government in 1977, bitterly opposes the dredging. The cleanup is expected to cost the company about $500 million.
The final decision from the Environmental Protection Agency mirrors a plan formulated by the Clinton administration and endorsed by EPA last summer.
"We are going forward with this important cleanup," EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said.
GE spokesman Mark Behan said company officials had not received EPA’s order and would not comment until they could review it.
PCBs, used as insulation and a coolant, have been linked to cancer in laboratory animals. The EPA classifies the oily substance as a probable carcinogen and says PCBs pose risks to wildlife and to people who eat fish from the Hudson.
GE released PCBs from its plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, about 40 miles north of Albany. The cleanup will include locations in that stretch, reaching almost down to the capital city.
The first phase of the cleanup is to work out engineering details of the plan to dredge 2.65 million cubic yards of sediment, enough to fill about 40 football fields 30 feet deep. That could take several years.
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