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Water & Wastewater

Texas to bury PCBs from the Hudson River

June 22, 2009
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According to the Associated Press, later this month, the first trainloads of PCB-tainted sludge dredged from the Hudson River will arrive and, in the eyes of critics, will turn a stretch of West Texas into New York''s "pay toilet". They argue that burying dirt so toxic that General Electric Co. will spend at least six years and an estimated $750 million to dig it up will only create a new mess for future generations to clean up. But for 15 new jobs and the little bit of money it will bring local businesses, the folks who live near the site are willing to take the risk, however remote, of tainting the area''s groundwater by taking out somebody else''s trash. The deal has the blessing of government officials in both states, and New York environmental groups who have lobbied for decades for the removal of the sludge say it will substantially lower the risk of PCBs getting into the food chain. The Dallas-based company that operates the disposal site, Waste Control Specialists, stands to make tens of millions of dollars, according to a company spokesman who declined to give an exact amount. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a family of chemicals commonly used as coolants and lubricants in electrical transformers before they were banned in 1977. GE plants in upstate New York discharged wastewater containing PCBs into the Hudson River over several decades. Waste Control plans to bury the tainted soil on top of 800 feet of clay and then cover it with plastic lining and uncontaminated soil. It also stores radioactive waste at the site, including 45,000 tons of waste from a former uranium-processing plant. Ordinarily, the clay would prevent the PCBs from seeping into the groundwater below, but critics say the clay underlying the storage site has cracks.
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