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The Saratoga County Water Authority has filed a lawsuit against General Electric Co., arguing the county's recently built waterline could have cost far less if it didn't have to be built to avoid the company's PCB contamination and dredging efforts on the Hudson River.

The suit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Northern New York, claims that moving the waterline's intake away from the Hudson River area polluted by GE added more than $27 million to the cost of the project.

The water authority's Hudson River intake is located in Moreau, approximately seven miles north of GE's Fort Edward plant, where an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs were discharged between 1947 and 1977.

Efforts to dredge the river and clean up the PCBs began in 2009. The effort is set to resume in May.

Donald Boyajian, the attorney representing the Water Authority, said he could not comment on what route the water line could have taken if there were no PCB contamination, but he said the intake would surely have been closer to its intended users.

Engineers came up with the $27 million figure using a cost-per-mile formula, he said.

The $67 million waterline, which became operational in February 2010, runs nearly 30 miles from Moreau to Malta, where it services the Luther Forest Technology Campus and the computer chip maker GlobalFoundries.

The pipeline also supplies water to residents in the towns of Wilton, Clifton Park, Ballston and the village of Stillwater.

Responding to the lawsuit, GE officials said the water authority's intake could have been located further south regardless of the contamination.

PCBs, while classified as a probable human carcinogen, have "been consistently below the federal drinking water standard" set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and pose no human health risk, GE officials said.

"The presence of PCBs in river sediments has never been a bar to the Saratoga County Water Authority locating an intake farther downstream than Moreau," GE said in a prepared statement. "If, as the complaint states, county officials chose not to locate a water intake further south due to the presence of PCBs in the river, this was a decision not based on sound science."

Boyajian dismissed that argument, calling the EPA's drinking water safety limits "outdated" and "arbitrary."

"I can tell you the decision to locate in the town of Moreau was directly necessitated by the fact that there was PCB contamination and that the water quality was likely to be further effected by dredging," he said.

This is not the first time GE has been asked to foot the bill for infrastructure since moving to clean up the river.

In 2009, the company agreed to help pay for an $8 million pipeline from Troy to service Halfmoon and Waterford, both of which draw drinking water from the Hudson River.

Boyajian said he did not know why the Water Authority had not asked GE to pay for the additional infrastructure earlier in the process.


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