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NYSDEC Discusses Waterfront Cleanup Plans

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – The Hastings Community Center was filled with local residents Thursday night as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) gave a presentation on proposed cleanup plans for the waterfront.  It was immediately evident that many in attendance were well versed on the issue, according to moderator Michael Knipfing.

“I remember this community, it would be preaching to the choir,” Knipfing said of encouraging community feedback.

The proposed remedy would help clean up much of the contamination caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), which are used as insulators for high voltage cables and these contaminants can be found in the water in the form of liquid, semi-solid and traces.  This pollution was a byproduct of a cable company and other factories that operated at the old Harbor on Hastings site.

The proposed plan would “remove and isolate significant PCB and metal contamination in soil and sediment from the environment that has the potential for exposure,” a fact sheet on the Hastings village website said.

A sheet pile wall would then be used to contain the remaining known PCB material, while providing the best opportunity to remove more liquid PCB.

“This is a relatively new discovery, we found the liquid in 2006, I think,” said project manager William Ports about liquid form PCB in the Hudson River.

The estimated cost of the entire project, broken down into two separate operable units, is $260,000,000.

According to the fact sheet posted on the village website, the project site is listed as a Class 2 site in the State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites.  A Class 2 site means there is a “significant threat to public health or the environment” and that action is required.

While the majority of the PCB contamination is in the northwest corner of the site, George Heitzman of the NYSDEC said he’d like to do more studies to confirm this.

“We know to some degree of certainty that it’s not that widespread, but we do want to go back and check it out,” Heitzman said.

Some comments from residents questioned various aspects of the proposed remedy, but Heitzman said it is simply making the best of the situation.

“The bottom line is we cannot remove all the contamination from the site,” Heitzman said.  “Short of being able to remove everything, what is the best option?  We think it is to build out into the Hudson River.”

Heitzman said an attempt to completely rid the area of any contamination would result in the collapse of the shoreline into the Hudson River due to the amount of digging and prodding it would require.

The NYSDEC will take into consideration any public comments it receives until the extended comment period ends March 12.  It will then issue a Record of Decision for both of the site’s operable units and eventually negotiate an Order on Consent for the water cleanup before beginning the design phase.  Ports said the design phase could take approximately two years with another two years for the implementation of the plan.

“So it’s a four or five year time frame,” Heitzman said.

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