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Post date: July 31 2006

Report Finds Pcb Damage To Navigation In Champlain Canal

New York State Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today released a draft report outlining how General Electric Company's (GE) discharge of PCBs has led to persistent navigation problems in the Champlain Canal.

Under federal law, parties that dump hazardous substances and injure natural resources are responsible for the cost of assessing and restoring the damage to those resources. The report was prepared as part of a Natural Resource Damages Assessment (NRDA) for PCB contamination of the Hudson River. The NRDA is being carried out jointly by DEC, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and will seek compensation for the injuries caused to natural resources by GE's PCB discharges.

Highlights of the report, entitled "Injuries to Hudson River Surface Water Resources Resulting in the Loss of Navigational Services" include the following:

  • PCBs discharged by the General Electric Company contaminate key sections of the canal;
  • Because of PCB contamination, normal dredging of the canal has not occurred in more than two decades; and
  • Curtailing dredging operations has left some sections of the canal impassable to all but the shallowest-draft vessels.

The draft report will be finalized after a 30-day public comment period that ends on August 31, 2006. The report is expected to form the basis of a natural resource damage claim against GE for the cost of restoring the navigability of the canal.

Before 1980, the State regularly dredged sediment that accumulated in the navigation channel of the Champlain Canal, which runs 60 miles from Lake Champlain south to Waterford. In the early 1980s, the State suspended dredging nearly everywhere in the canal because GE's PCB discharges made the cost of disposing of the contaminated sediment prohibitively expensive. Over time, sediment has continued to accumulate in the canal, making navigation more difficult and dangerous in certain locations.

The draft report is available at public libraries in the following communities: Glens Falls, Saratoga, Troy, Poughkeepsie, Ballston Spa, Albany, Bethlehem, Athens, Croton, Catskill, New Paltz, White Plains, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Kingston, the Washington County Clerk's Office in Fort Edward, the New York State Library in Albany and at college libraries at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Marist and SUNY/Albany. The report is also available at DEC's office at 625 Broadway in Albany.

Written comments can be sent by August 31, 2006, to:
Department of Environmental Conservation
Steven Jay Sanford
Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233
or by email to: