Updated at: 10/09/2013 1:05 PM
By MICHAEL HILL
(AP) ALBANY, N.Y. - General Electric’s dredging of the Hudson River to clean up pollution has continued on pace during the government shutdown, and the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it has been able to oversee the Superfund project despite furloughs.
It is one of the largest and most complex federal Superfund projects ever. Crews under the direction of GE have removed 1.8 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated by poly-chlorinated biphenyls, about two-thirds of the total they plan to dredge up, and are expected to wrap up their fourth year on the river next month.
Until 1977, GE discharged into the river about 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, which were used as coolants in electrical equipment. The more than $1 billion project aims to reduce PCB levels in fish and improve the natural habitat.
Private-sector crews have continued to work on the river north of Albany since the government shutdown. Mark Behan, a spokesman for Fairfield, Conn.-based GE, said Wednesday the project has not been slowed down this month.
"The shutdown has had no impact on dredging," he said.
But furloughs have affected the EPA, which oversees the project. EPA project coordinator Dave King said he and another agency employee have stayed on during the shutdown and have managed oversight duties. He said the local EPA employee who handled outreach and press calls has been furloughed.
Althea Mullarkey, a public policy analyst at Scenic Hudson, said she fears a prolonged shutdown could affect the EPA’s ability to allow extra dredging before the season wraps up next month or to plan for next year over the winter.
"It does make you leery about what the possibilities could be _ what we’re not going to see _ if the shutdown continues," she said.
But crews this season have so far removed 520,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, exceeding the annual goal set by regulators at the EPA.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)