EPA official tours upper Hudson dredge area

MICHAEL HILL - Associated Press
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Crews dredge the Hudson River in Fort Edward, N.Y., Friday, June 10, 2011. The work is part of the recently restarted project on the upper Hudson River where the General Electric Co. released PCBs into the river decades ago. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (AP) — As dredging crews worked downriver, government officials on the banks of the Hudson River predicted Friday that the recently restarted PCB cleanup will revive the waterway.

"This clean-up will restore the Hudson River to its full greatness," said U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a Hudson Valley Democrat.

Hinchey joined Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck and other government officials at a riverside park in Fort Edward on Friday — four days after work began on the second phase of dredging.

The federal Superfund project is designed to rid a 40-mile stretch of river north of Albany of PCBs. It is expected to take five to seven years to complete and could end up costing more than $1 billion.

The second and final phase of dredging, which started Monday, is seen as the culmination of a decades-long effort to clean the river and make its fish safe to eat.

General Electric Co. released PCBs into the river decades ago. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were once used as coolants in electrical equipment and are a suspected carcinogen. GE is overseeing crews that will eventually remove more than 2.4 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the river bottom.

"For the communities that share this river, this final leg of this cleanup provides an opportunity to finally close the chapter on this long, toxic legacy," Enck said.

Fairfield, Conn.-based GE oversaw the cleanup of about 10 percent of the contaminated sediment in 2009, but paused for a year as independent scientists assessed the work. Because there were higher-than-desired levels of PCBs released into the water in 2009, dredging crews this year will cut deeper to remove more contamination with fewer passes.

Enck said regulators are constantly assessing results this year and will adjust their techniques as necessary.