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Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP
Contacts: Harold Porr, City Manager (914) 569-7301
Clifford Case, Carter, Ledyard (212) 238-8798
CENTRAL HUDSON CLEAN UP PLAN THREATENS NEWBURGH'S RIVERFRONT REVITALIZATION
NEWBURGH, NY, February 15, 2000 -- Revitalization of Newburgh's scenic waterfront could be jeopardized by a plan for cleaning up a local hazardous waste site, according to City officials. Lawyers representing the City charge that the plan, submitted last December by Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. for cleaning up land and portions of the Hudson River contaminated by an old gas manufacturing plant, is "seriously flawed." (For additional information, see City of Newburgh and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation Settle Contamination Lawsuits.)
In rejecting the Central Hudson plan, Newburgh City Manager Harold Porr III said: "The Central Hudson proposal is a cover-up, not a clean-up. We have been living with this contamination for too long, and Central Hudson is just shifting the burden back to the community rather than offering a meaningful, workable solution to a long-standing environmental problem."
Clifford P. Case, a partner with Carter, Ledyard & Milburn, the Manhattan-based law firm representing Newburgh in its five-year legal battle with Central Hudson over the clean-up of the site, said that the utility's proposal "fails to address the major part of the contamination at the site." The contaminated property includes City-owned land, public streets, two sets of CSX railroad tracks, and several acres of underwater lands in the Hudson.
The Central Hudson plan, which describes the steps the utility would take to manage hazardous substances at the site, including known carcinogens, was submitted under the terms of a settlement the City reached with the utility in March 1999. Newburgh had sued Central Hudson to force the clean-up after discovering oily, tarry wastes at the City's wastewater treatment facility.
According to Case, rather than cleaning up the site, Central Hudson's proposal would leave most of the contamination in place while doing nothing to halt the movement of remaining hazardous substances downhill from the utility's plant onto City property and into the Hudson River.
Of greater concern, according to Case, is that Central Hudson's plan would limit public access to City-owned land, including the Hudson River waterfront, in an attempt to minimize human contact with remaining contaminants. The utility has proposed "institutional controls," such as warning signs and permanent restrictions on non-industrial uses of the land.
"At a time when so much has been invested in cleaning up the Hudson, and cities up and down the river, including Newburgh, are revitalizing their waterfronts, Central Hudson's inadequate clean-up proposal would do the exact opposite," Case said. "It would leave contamination in place and reduce public enjoyment of the river. Governor Pataki has rightfully called the Hudson New York's lifeblood. This plan is an affront to every citizen of the State who regards the Hudson as a precious natural resource for all of us."
City Manager Porr commented, "For too long, industrial interests have shut off the waterfront from the people of Newburgh. Now, our waterfront is in the process of being returned to our citizens. A full clean-up is required to reconnect the river with the people and make it safe for both commercial and recreational uses."
Case was particularly critical of Central Hudson's plan to "cap" contaminated sediments in the Hudson under a layer of cloth, sand, and gravel, rather than removing the contamination. "We are not confident that this kind of cover would work either initially or over the long term," Case said. "Central Hudson put this waste in the river. It ought to take it out."
According to Case, Central Hudson has systematically underestimated health and environmental risks at the Newburgh site, ignoring evidence of contamination and skewing clean-up alternatives toward minor soil management and limited removal operations. "This clean-up should be based on sound science, not on the cheapest options for Central Hudson," said Case.
Among Newburgh's other objections in its official response to the clean-up plan are that it would remove contaminated soil in only one small section of the City's property and leave all other contamination on the land, including tars and oils, in place.
Public hearings will be conducted this spring by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health, and the agencies will then make a final decision on the extent of the clean-up Central Hudson will be required to undertake at the site.
"DEC and DOH should reject Central Hudson's band-aid approach," Case said, "and send it back to the drawing board to develop plans that will remove these contaminants and ensure continued public access to the Hudson River."
Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP (www.clm.com), established in 1854, has approximately 90 attorneys and has been headquartered on Wall Street since its founding. Carter Ledyard's general practice includes corporate, securities, mergers and acquisitions, broker-dealer, on-shore and off-shore hedge and other alternative investment funds, private equity, litigation, intellectual property, environmental, employment, media and technology, immigration, investment regulation, antitrust, art law, trusts and estates, maritime, ERISA, tax-exempt organizations, real estate, tax and bankruptcy. A significant part of the firm's practice involves representing overseas-based clients and their U.S. affiliates, financial institutions and other financial services providers, governmental entities and media and technology clients.
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