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Concerns Arise About GM Clean-Up in Sleepy Hollow

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – The environmental advocacy group Riverkeeper has some “initial concerns” about a proposed remediation plan for the former General Motors plant in Sleepy Hollow, Hudson River Program Director Phillip Musegaas said Tuesday.

Proposed plans include covering polluted soil on-site and removing contaminated soil in the Hudson River through dredging. The proposed dredging would affect about 4,400 cubic yards of the river bottom about 150 feet north and south of an existing storm water outfall.

DEC spokesperson Lisa King noted that the proposed remedy was selected by General Motors and that all investigative work has been completed. The draft remediation plan “is the next step in the process,” King said. A public hearing on the plan will be held on March 22 at 7 p.m. at the James Galgano Senior Center.

The General Motors site sits on 96.5 acres alongside the Hudson River and was the former home of an automobile assembly plant in operation since 1914. General Motors ceased operations in 1996. The Sleepy Hollow Board of Trustees approved a special permit in June to allow for the development of retail and residential use on the site.

Musegaas said Riverkeeper was still reviewing the documents on the proposed remediation, but that it is “very skeptical” that capping over the site will prevent further contamination, because the polluted soil will still interact with groundwater and will continue “leaching contaminants to the Hudson River.”

Another concern is that the proposed plan does not address the sea level of the site. Musegaas noted that the sea level does rise above the site and that it needs to be addressed before any development can begin.

Proposed remediation plans for pollution at the General Motors site in Sleepy Hollow include cleaning up contaminated soils in the Hudson River, which Musegaas noted is “the first time we've actually heard” about cleaning up the river contamination.

“There's been almost no information on the levels of contaminants in the river,” Musegaas said, noting that it would have been better to get public input on the issue before proposing one solution.

The proposed decision document notes that General Motors and the DEC disagreed on whether contaminants in the Hudson River next to the outfall were toxic to river organisms and needed to be cleaned up. The two parties negotiated a settlement of $875,000 in damages for injuries to natural resources in 2010 to move the process forward.

Although dredging can have negative impacts, Musegaas said it would be better to remove any contaminated soil in the river bottom. Depending on the types of mitigation measures they take, Musegaas said the soil can be removed carefully so that contaminants were not released downstream.

General Motors entered into a voluntary clean-up agreement with the Department of Environmental Conservation in November 2002. Interim remedial measures were taken in 2007 to remove 14,900 cubic yards of contaminated soils at four separate areas. A site-wide remedial approach “will be used to prevent public contact with soils and historic fill materials that contain low levels of remaining site contaminants,” according to the DEC.

The proposed decision document notes that “Investigations have identified widespread, low-level contamination across the site at concentrations that exceed the standards, criteria, and guidance (SCGs) along with four specific areas containing significant levels of contamination. The contamination identified at the Site is associated with a combination of historical fill and past operations at the former GM Assembly Plant facility.”

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