EPA to delay decision on Hudson cleanup

Manhattan catastrophe takes focus off river

September 23, 2001|By Dina Cappiello | Dina Cappiello,ALBANY TIMES UNION

ALBANY, N.Y. - The final decision on a $460 million plan to dredge the Hudson River of toxic PCBs will be delayed by at least two weeks, making it impossible for state and federal officials to reach a conclusion on the river's cleanup by the end of September.

Part of the reason is that the recent disastrous events forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency out of its Manhattan offices and with officials there assisting in the World Trade Center cleanup, dredging has been put on the back burner.

"It has obviously impacted us. Everything else has clearly taken a priority," said one EPA official, who did not say when a final decision could be expected.

The delay marks the first time since April that the schedule for dredging has hit a snag. In the last two years, the plan has withstood high-profile lobbying, provisions in appropriations bills and other efforts to derail it.

The state, which was expected a week ago to begin a 15-day review of the dredging plan endorsed by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, never received the documents, according to Jennifer Post, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"Unless the governor dispensed his judgment before this happened, I don't think we will be seeing it [for a while]," said Andre Mele of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The toppling of the World Trade Center towers that shook all of Lower Manhattan also led to the evacuation of EPA's Manhattan offices at 290 Broadway.

"We are working on this and moving forward," said Bonnie Bellow, an EPA spokeswoman, who said that there was complete disruption for only a couple of days. "As soon as we can, we will give an update."

Since 1995, when the EPA reopened the investigation into how to clean up the PCB-laden sediments that line a 35-mile stretch of the river north of the Troy Dam, the final decision has been postponed at least 11 times. The latest delay came when the EPA extended the public comment on its proposed decision by 60 days, from February to April.

With 200 miles polluted, the Hudson River is the nation's largest hazardous waste site.

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