Whitman Approves Clean-up of Hudson River

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman yesterday approved a Clinton\r\nadministration proposal to remove PCB-contaminated sediment from the\r\nHudson River in New York state.

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EPA Administrator Chrisite Whitman yesterday approved a Clinton administration proposal to remove PCB-contaminated sediment from the Hudson River in New York state.

The $460 million plan, expected to be the largest environmental dredging operation ever in the country, is opposed by General Electric Co. because it would be responsible for paying for most of the clean up.

GE''s electrical equipment-making plants along the Hudson River discharged more than 1.3 million pounds of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) into the Hudson before the chemicals were banned in 1977. PCB''s are an industrial compound thought to cause cancer.

The world''s largest maker of aircraft engines and power systems and the owner of the National Broadcasting Company, says the decision to dredge the river will cause more harm than good.

"This is a loss for the people of the area who overwhelmingly oppose this project and the decades of disruption it will bring to their communities. It appears that neither sound science nor the voices of these residents played a part in EPA''s decision," GE said in a statement.

Whitman said in a statement released yesterday, that "the administration is committed to cleaning up the Hudson River in a manner that is environmentally sound and is responsive to the concerns of the affected communities."

To that end, EPA intends to incorporate the plan with a series of performance standards by which the cleanup will be evaluated regularly to determine whether it is scientifically justified to continue the cleanup.

Environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council hailed EPA''s decision on the clean up as a triumph of science over cynicism.

"We applaud EPA Administrator Whitman for standing by science and her staff in holding General Electric accountable for contaminating the Hudson River for 30 years," said Frances Beinecke, NRDC executive director. "The decision to proceed with the dredging plan is a triumph of public health over public relations. It tells GE that polluters must pay and signals Superfund polluters everywhere that this EPA will not let them off the hook."

by Virginia Foran

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