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Prentiss argues against EPA dredging plan

As printed in: Your Opinion Matters—COLONIE SPOTLIGHT, January 17, 2001

Editor, Colonie Spotlight:

Did you hear the yarn about the gang from Washington who brought to upstate New York a proposal for an environmentally devastating project that included around-the-clock heavy construction - in an historic, ecologically sensitive area?

Here's the punch line - they didn't need a single local or state permit to start their project.

As absurd as it sounds, it's no joke. The Washington group is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the historic, environmentally sensitive area that the project may devastate is the upper Hudson River and local communities.

The EPA has proposed the most massive dredging project ever. It would rip up 500 acres of riverbed in the upper Hudson, damaging 17 miles of shoreline and destroying 97 acres of aquatic habitat.

The goal is to remove buried deposits of PCBs, but the EPA plans to take out 80,000 pounds of riverbed for every pound of PCBs.

I agree with the Spotlight Point of View Column of January 5 that everyone wants a cleaner river and reduced PCB levels in fish. The challenge we face, however, is accomplishing those goals in a way that protects the river and local communities. The EPA plan does neither.

What would concerned local citizens do if a manufacturer proposed such a project and was seeking a permit?

How would we react if we were told, as the EPA has implied, "Don't worry about the 10 miles of underwater pipeline that will transport contaminated sediment; don't worry that we don't have a plan to deal with possible rupture of that pipeline; don't worry that the dredging operation will be more than twice as loud as standing within 10 yards of a diesel truck; don't worry that the lights needed for the around-the-clock dredging will be comparable to having a professional baseball stadium in our backyards; don't worry that we don't even know where to store the PCBs temporarily (Menands, Green Island, Port of Albany?) before shipping them out somewhere; and don't worry that we've never attempted a project anywhere this size, especially in a river which EPA itself has called legendary for its swift and variable currents."

And after all that dredging destruction, EPA's plan won't reduce the level of PCBs enough to allow unrestricted consumption of fish during most of our lifetimes.

The EPA project will not accomplish the goal of lowering PCBs in fish any faster than the clean-up now taking place.

How would we react to a flawed request for such a permit? I suspect we'd let the Washington gang know that local communities will not accept a plan that imposes so much risk and damage with virtually no benefit to the environment.

That's why more than 60 communities along the Hudson, including Clifton Park, Malta and Stillwater, which I represent, have passed resolutions in opposition to dredging because of the negative impacts it would have on the river, the economy and living conditions in the Capital District.

That's why I testified against dredging at the EPA's public hearing in Saratoga Springs December 12.

That's why hundreds of my constituents have written letters, sent faxes and phoned me expressing opposition to dredging.

A better alternative to dredging is to continue the on-shore clean-up of PCBs, a program that is working effectively.

Please write to: Hudson River PCBs Public Comment, US EPA, 290 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, NY 1007-1866.

For the Capital District's sake, tell the EPA, "Don't dredge the Hudson River."

Assemblyman Bob Prentiss

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