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Originally published Monday, September 13, 2010 at 1:03 PM

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GE asks EPA to let it continue dredge tests in '11

General Electric told federal environmental officials Monday that it should be allowed to finish the test phase of Hudson River dredging next year to collect more data, instead of starting the far larger, second phase of the massive Superfund cleanup.

Associated Press Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. —

General Electric told federal environmental officials Monday that it should be allowed to finish the test phase of Hudson River dredging next year to collect more data, instead of starting the far larger, second phase of the massive Superfund cleanup.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it wanted to start the second phase of the PCB cleanup next year.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, GE argued that an independent review panel's findings show that it makes more sense to instead complete the unfinished Phase 1 next year. The Fairfield, Conn.-based company said data collected from dredging next year could then be used to set standards for Phase 2, which represents 90 percent of the cleanup.

"This approach would provide both EPA and GE with the basis to make informed decisions on Phase 2," Ann Klee, GE's vice president for corporate environmental programs wrote in her letter to Jackson.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the letter.

Wastewater containing PCBs was discharged into the river by GE plants in Fort Edward and neighboring Hudson Falls before the lubricant and coolant was banned in 1977. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are considered probable carcinogens.

Workers last year dredged 10 of the 18 PCB "hot spots" that had been targeted in Phase 1.

The independent review panel last week called for substantive changes to standards that govern the project, including the pace of work and levels of PCBs that dredgers stir up and resuspend into the river. The panel also said better data is needed to map the extent of the underwater contamination.

The EPA is reviewing the panel's report and is expected to make a decision on how to continue with Phase 2 this fall.

GE proposed that the EPA make that decision in November 2011, after the new data is analyzed. GE said it could then decide by the end of 2011 whether to perform Phase 2.

If GE refuses to perform the next phase of dredging, EPA could continue with Phase 2 and seek to recoup triple costs from GE.

GE says it has already spent about $561 million on the dredging.

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