Government trustees say groundwater contamination upriver part of PCB damage to Hudson River

Government trustees assessing harm to the Hudson River from long-term PCB releases highlighted concerns over groundwater contamination in three upriver towns as the massive dredging project nears its end.

The report Thursday from the Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees is part of their broader effort to measure damage to the river's ecology from the release of polychlorinated biphenyls from two upriver General Electric plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls before 1977. The trustees say previously identified groundwater contamination in Fort Edward, Hudson Falls and Stillwater should be included in the assessment.

Groundwater standards for PCBs have been exceeded in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls for more than two decades, and levels in Stillwater have exceeded state standards since at least 2008. The contaminated sources are not being used for drinking water, the trustees said.

GE expects to finish dredging a 40-mile stretch of the river north of Albany this year as part of the Superfund project overseen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In a response to the trustees' new report, the company said it "long ago" addressed those issues with the towns, the state and the EPA.

"Effective environmental solutions are already in place and working at these sites and protecting public health and the environment," company spokesman Mark Behan said in an email. "GE has met all of its commitments to New York State and the EPA and will continue to do so."

The report comes as advocates who want GE to perform more dredging than agreed to with the EPA are stepping up lobbying pressure. The advocates fear that once GE dismantles its sprawling PCB decontamination facility near the river, additional dredging may no longer be a realistic option.

The trustees eventually will make an assessment of the total harm done to the river's resources, which could lead to either a settlement with GE over the company's liability or to litigation.