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NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo says little on Encon, federal regulators report that General Electric PCB contamination has polluted ground water in Saratoga and Washington counties.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo says little on Encon, federal regulators report that General Electric PCB contamination has polluted ground water in Saratoga and Washington counties.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


COLONIE, N.Y. (September 3) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo had little to say Thursday after the state Department of Environmental Conservation and federal regulators reported PCBs dumped by General Electric have poisoned ground water supplies in Stillwater, Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.

"I've not seen or heard about that report," Cuomo said after a speech to a convention of NYPD union leaders, when asked if the report would affect his efforts to provide tax breaks to convince GE to move its corporate headquarters to New York from Connecticut.

"I haven't – I know that they have, or they are completing what they agreed to complete," he said when asked if GE should continue to dredge to remove PCBs contamination in the state Canal system and elsewhere. "I know there are claims for them to do more above and beyond that. I haven't really looked into them."

Asked if General Electric should continue to disassemble a plant built to process the mud and soils contaminated by the toxic waste, Cuomo said GE "should follow the law and the agreements that have been made." An aide then cut off questioning and the governor left.

Mark Behan, a spokesman for General Electric, said "GE long ago addressed these issues in full cooperation with local communities, New York State and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Effective environmental solutions are already in place and working at these sites and protecting public health and the environment. GE has met all of its commitments to New York State and the EPA and will continue to do so."

Thursday, the report by the Hudson River Trustees – Cuomo's DEC and the federal NOAA and Department of the Interior agencies – said the GE pollution has caused substantial damage to groundwater in addition to the Hudson River pollution that has been the object of a massive cleanup for years.

General Electric "released hazardous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), to the soil, surface water, and groundwater at their Fort Edward and Hudson Falls manufacturing facilities," the trustees reported Thursday. "These hazardous substances have caused repeated and prolonged exceedances of New York State groundwater standards in Hudson Falls, Fort Edward, and Stillwater, New York."

"In Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, PCBs and VOCs reached the groundwater from
decades of spills and leaks in the delivery, use, transfer, and storage processes at
GE’s facilities. Concentrations of these hazardous substances in Ft. Edward and
Hudson Falls, as measured in sampling wells, have been thousands of times higher
than New York’s groundwater standards."

"In Stillwater, contamination occurred because the well field is less than 500 feet
from the Hudson River and they hydraulically connect," the trustees said. "Historically, river water contaminated with PCBs flowed through this well field and PCBs bound to the aquifer soils. The PCB-contaminated aquifer soils currently contribute the majority
of PCBs to groundwater in the well field."

The trustees said the three state and federal agencies "which act on the public’s behalf as trustees of the Hudson River’s natural resources, are conducting a 'natural resource damages assessment' to determine how GE’s releases of PCBs and VOCs have injured the Hudson’s natural resources. The Trustees will evaluate how to restore resources (such as groundwater) and the services they provide, by, for example, seeking to protect the areas that naturally filter groundwater, or making improvements to drinking water infrastructure."

General Electric dumped more than 1 million pounds of PCBs into the river before stopping in the 1970s. The chemical used in manufacturing capacitors is toxic and concentrates in the environment and the bodies of fish, animals and humans who are exposed to the pollution.

"PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its PCB webpage. "PCBs have also been shown to cause a number of serious non-cancer health effects in animals, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects."

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