EPA/GE destroy remains of historical fort

This is off-topic, but this idiocy makes me SO MAD. From the Associated Press, August 14:

fort edward placement.gif

Crews dredging PCBs from the Hudson River on Friday ripped away remnants of what was once Britain's largest fort in Colonial America, a mistake that incensed local officials who had feared the cleanup project would damage such relics in the area....

Neal Orsini said he was awoken around 4a by the sound of dredging along his riverside property in Fort Edward, 45 miles north of Albany. Orsini said he later discovered that the dredgers had torn out the riverbank, along with 2 wooden beams that had been part of the original fort's waterfront bastion. A 3rd beam was later found still buried at the site.

Orsini said crews were supposed to stay away from that stretch of riverbank because of its archaeological significance.

"They made a mistake," said Orsini, a Fort Edward town board member and restaurant owner. "They went out of their dredge prism and pulled the water bastion beam from the old fort, pulled it right out of the bank."

fort edward dredging.jpg

General Electric is dredging PCBs from the river bottom as part of a $750 million cleanup project. GE spokesman Mark Behan said the dredger was removing sediment from the river bottom, not the bank, when it encountered the beams buried under more than 2 feet of silt and sticking farther out into the river than expected.

"We believe we were operating pursuant to the dredging plan approved for this particular area," Behan said.

Dave King, the EPA's coordinator for the dredging project, said 2 beams were removed by mistake when the operator of the dredger got too close to the bank.

"He went closer to the shore than he should have been," King said. "We stopped that rig and moved it to a different area."

The fort, built in 1755 at the start of the French and Indian War, was home to more than 15k troops and the base of operations for Rogers' Rangers, forerunners of today's U.S. commandos.

The fort was used again during the American Revolution, then fell into disrepair. The village grew up on the fort's ruins, and the so-called water bastion damaged Friday was the last piece of the original fortress. The location of the remaining beams was well-known to locals, who during many meetings with GE voiced concern over potential threats dredging posed to the artifacts.

"Why did we have all those meetings when they're going to tear into the last remnant of the most important historical structure on the river?" asked David Starbuck, an anthropology professor who has conducted archaeology excavations there since the early 1990s.

ge plant in 2001.jpg

PCBs, once commonly used as coolants and lubricants, were dumped into the Hudson by a GE factory [pictured right in 2001; click to enlarge] in Fort Edward and another nearby after the substance was banned in 1977. The chemical is a suspected carcinogen.

After years of heated debates in towns along the upper Hudson, the federal EPA ordered GE to remove PCB-contaminated sediments from the river.

It gets worse. According to CNS News, August 18:

... The EPA now says that the beams are contaminated with potential carcinogens known as PCBs and therefore must be buried in a landfill....

Kristen Skopek, a spokeswoman for the EPA's Hudson River Field Office... said that both timbers - including the one that was originally protected as a historical artifact - were contaminated and would be buried in a landfill.

fort edward marker.gif

"This is a historic area," Skopek said, "so there will be some artifacts that will be uncovered in the process, and many of them won't be able to be preserved. They'll just have to be documented and then they'll have to go to the place where all the other PCBs are going for final burial - basically, in a landfill."...

Skopek also noted that archaeologists have discovered 10 sunken vessels in the way of the dredging project, and that an archaeologist was being brought in to answer the public's questions on that subject. She did not indicate what the fate of the shipwrecks would be.

When CNSNews.com asked whether disposing of artifacts was justified in the name of environmental protection, Skopek responded, "Yes, they're old, rotten timbers that are covered in PCB oil."

Asked whether the EPA was getting too close by allowing dredging only 10 feet from known artifacts, Skopek said, "You have to remember that this area where we're dredging in is not even - the river up here is very narrow. I mean, I think the whole entire channel there is only 100 feet, and we've got big dredges and bring big barges in there."

"I'm not trying to sound insensitive," she said. "I mean, it's unfortunate that this happened."...

[Dredging and GE plant photo attributions: Associated Press]


This makes me so upset.

The PCB debates were always an undercurrent in the background of my school years. I couldn't believe when they finally started cleaning it up -- it was one of those things you kind of think you'll never see the end of.

New York has such rich history, and it is sad to lose a tangible part of it. Of course there are greater tragedies in the world, and the loss is mostly sentimental -- it is the history itself that really counts, not the beams that remind us of that history -- but it's upsetting to lose a piece of local and national importance like this.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 20, 2009 11:16 AM

On a unrelated topic pbho says"

'We are God's partners in matters of life and death'


Well, the killin is the easy part, but I want to see the anointed 'one' raise someone from the dead or even create a new life without using pre-existing life to do it.

yor bro ken

Posted by: kbhvac at August 20, 2009 11:35 AM

Wait a minute- the EPA is saying these things HAVE TO BE BURIED in a LANDFILL? Aren't they the guys that are always saying that landfills are bad for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because of the gasses and the runoff from the rains that carries toxins into the water? Aren't they just putting it right back IN, or relocating the toxins to another body of water?
and what about hazardous gases coming from this landfill?
why not keep them in a museum enclosed in a glass case?
I smell a government cover-up- probably found something there that they don't want us to know.

Posted by: Nancy at August 20, 2009 11:47 AM

Why didn't the EPA just bury the sediment under a thick layer of rocks? Just my two cents...

Posted by: Janet at August 20, 2009 12:40 PM

Doesn't make sense moving the contaminates from one place to another...landfill area isn't a safe place.

Posted by: Mylene at August 20, 2009 12:55 PM

Hi Mom!

Posted by: Jill Stanek Author Profile Page at August 20, 2009 12:58 PM

I enjoy your articles Jill. However, this one was a bit difficult to read. Being slightly under-educated, I was confused as to what PCB was until well into the article. As a senior citizen I find it somewhat difficult to keep up to date on all the acronyms.

Posted by: Michael Kaster at August 20, 2009 9:08 PM

Michael Kaster, I'm sorry you were confused! Acronyms can be so frustrating if you're not "in the know."

You probably know this by now, but PCB stands for Polychlorinated biphenyl. From maybe the 1920's or 1930's on, PCBs were used in a variety of ways: as a cooling or insulating fluid, as a stabilizing additive in PVC on electrical things, as a cutting oil, as lubricant or hydraulic fluid, etc.

PCBs were recognized as toxic very early on -- people were organizing and discussing the toxicity pre-1940. But some companies, including General Electric, continued to use PCBs until the government cracked down in the 1970s.

GE dumped massive quantities of PCBs into the Hudson River, over several decades. It got so bad that the NYS Dept of Health had to ban all fishing in the upper Hudson River, and commercial fishing of certain types in the lower Hudson River.

Through most of my childhood and into my adulthood, there were various legal efforts to force GE to dredge the river and clean the PCBs out of the most heavily contaminated areas. The counter-argument was that the PCBs had mostly settled on the bottom and were being buried under new layers of sediment, so dredging them up would stir up PCBs and elevate the risk level again. The clean-up finally started this year, and not long in, the EPA found that the levels of PCBs currently in the water exceeds quality standards. Some measures to alleviate this effect are currently being discussed, such as limiting the number of dredges going on at one time, and using silt curtains to prevent disrupted sediment from traveling too far downriver.

Posted by: Alexandra at August 21, 2009 9:23 AM