GE gets warning on lingering PCB threats
General Electric Co. was warned Thursday that its toxic PCB contamination continues to foul groundwater in three Hudson River towns — Fort Edward, Hudson Falls and Stillwater — and that company efforts to restore damage done from its PCB dumping into the Hudson River remain incomplete, in a report by two federal agencies and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
That report also warned underground PCB contamination around the GE capacitor plant in Fort Edward — where a state-overseen Superfund pollution cleanup has been in place since the 1980s — appears to be spreading out.Twelve 1980s-era test wells around the 10-acre plant, where GE dumped PCBs into the Hudson until 1977, were not detecting PCBs through the late 1990s, but by 2011, showed unsafe levels beyond the state standard for groundwater, the report found.In some groundwater tests, PCB levels were thousands of times beyond safe standards, said Margaret Byrne, assessment and restoration manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is one of three federal trustees for the Hudson River. The other trustees on the report included DEC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.In Stillwater, a Saratoga County village that until 2011 used wells near the Hudson as a public drinking water supply, pumping those wells drew PCB-tainted river water into and through the ground, causing PCBs to accumulate. The tainted aquifer — and not the river itself — now contributes to “the majority of PCBs to groundwater,” according to the report. Stillwater now buys its drinking water from Saratoga County.The report came as GE races to wrap up a six-year dredging project, overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to remove PCBs from the Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy that were dumped from the Fort Edward and Hudson Falls plants in Washington County.A GE spokesman shrugged off the new report, saying the company had met all its commitments to the state, while environmental groups said it showed the company will be leaving a legacy of dangerous PCBs behind.”This report shows how huge the damage is,” said Dan Raichel, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It shows that GE has ultimate liability, and gives an idea how huge that liability will be.”Late Thursday, an environmental coalition called on Regional EPA Administrator Judith Enck to stop GE from dismantling its PCB processing plant in Fort Edward. The letter also repeated claims, revealed last month at meeting of EPAs Hudson Citizens Advisory Group, that GE lowballed test results for a decade to show lower levels of PCB contamination in river fish.