For the audience it attracted, the presentation was disappointingly absent of hard information. Anthony Karwiel from DEC talked about Hudson and whale oil, explained what a manufactured gas plant (MGP) was and how it worked, detailed the characteristics of MGP tar, and defined the ARC (area of remedial consideration), which is in the river in the vicinity of Embayment 1 and Embayment 2. All most of the attendees wanted to know, however, was when the cleanup would happen and how long it would take. Hallenbeck, Moore, and Scalera seemed bent on outdoing each other in their concern about the negative impact on waterfront development. Even after Karwiel explained that Fish and Wildlife restrictions would not allow work to take place during spawning seasons for sturgeon and bass, limiting the window of opportunity to late fall and early winter, there was still talk of dredging interfering with waterfront events, which don't happen much after Columbus Day weekend.
At one point, former mayor Scalera demanded of Karwiel, "Why didn't you do everything in 2004? Who knew you were coming back?" The first is an interesting question. According to Karwiel, MGP cleanups are typically done in two phases: upland remediation first, then underwater remediation. The second seems disingenuous. It was generally known, at the time the 2004 cleanup was completed, that there was still coal tar underwater which would have to be removed.
The feasibility study for the project was completed in April 2011; the PRAP (Proposed Remedial Action Plan), which determines what will be removed, was completed on February 13, 2012; but the design for the remediation, which determines how it will be done, has yet to be completed. According to Karwiel, creating the design takes a year. He speculated that the project wouldn't begin until the fall of 2014. Later in the meeting, when Scalera complained that the project demanded "a major concession from the City to have to sit and wait for two years" to move ahead on waterfront development, a representative of National Grid, which is actually doing the remediation, predicted that the project could probably begin in the fall of 2013. He also predicted that a hydraulic dredge might be used instead of the clam shell bucket and barge being used to remove PCBs farther upriver.
A National Grid representative indicated that they are hoping to put the dewatering equipment necessary for the project on Holcim property, but if that's not a possibility, they'll put it in "the big parking area" by the southernmost embayment--in other words, "Rick's Point." He also indicated that contaminated sediment could be moved out of the area by barge instead by truck. One wonders why this couldn't be done in 2004 instead of using the Holcim "causeway"?
Discussion at the meeting confirmed that the City is no longer interested in selling the old Dunn warehouse building as a separate parcel. Instead the hope is to sell all the land that the City owns, east of Water Street from Broad Street to Ferry Street, as a single parcel to a developer. That decision seems to be an unfortunate one. It eliminates the buyer who just wants to transform the warehouse into a destination restaurant or a maritime museum and encourages large scale development, like a chain hotel or a housing or shopping complex--plans which may or may not incorporate the historic building.