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GE Moves Forward With PCB Dredging

General Electric said it will go ahead with the next phase of PCB dredging in Hudson River under terms laid out last week by federal environmental regulators.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- General Electric Co. said Thursday it will go ahead with the next phase of PCB dredging in the Hudson River under terms laid out last week by federal environmental regulators.

The Environmental Protection Agency had said the Fairfield, Conn.-based company must remove more PCB-tainted sediment from the Hudson River and will have to take better samples of the river bottom when it resumes dredging.

"We engaged in intensive and constructive discussions with EPA, and the Agency's decision reflects our discussions and many of our proposals," Ann Klee, GE's vice president of Corporate Environmental Programs said in a statement.

The EPA announced new standards for the work after a review of the first round of dredging in 2009. The goal is to remove as much tainted sludge as possible from a 40-mile stretch of the river north of Albany, one of the nation's largest Superfund sites.

"The decision sets us on a clear path to a cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediment that is based on the best science and will remove huge quantities of this dangerous chemical from the river," EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said in a statement Thursday.

Environmental groups said the new standards will ultimately mean a cleaner river, but criticized the EPA for allowing GE to leave and cap PCBs in up to 11 percent of the total project area, not counting rocky or other hard-to-reach areas. When those trouble spots are included, the new standards mean up to 21 percent of the area could be capped.

GE said it will take an after-tax charge of $500 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 to help pay for the work. It said analysts following the company were told recently that will be offset by "positive items," including a favorable tax ruling.

The company said the goal is to resume dredging in late spring, and it is refining plans for the work based on discussions with the EPA and the recommendations of the panel of independent experts.

GE plants discharged approximately 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls during a 30-period ending in 1977, contaminating nearly 200 miles of the Hudson River. These potentially cancer-causing chemicals can build up in fish over time, posing a serious risk to those who eat them.

GE has already spent $561 million on the project. Outside estimates released before the Phase 2 standards were announced suggested the project's total cost could reach $750 million.

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