FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (AP) – Archaeologists plan to excavate a Hudson River site where crews dredging PCB-contaminated sediment last week mistakenly ripped out the remains of what was once Britain’s largest fort in colonial America.

John Vetter, the Environmental Protection Agency’s national archaeologist, said Thursday that plans for the dig were worked out during a meeting with local leaders, General Electric officials and Neal Orsini, owner of the riverside property where the beams were located.

Several wooden beams were ripped out of the riverbank property last Friday by a crew removing sediment during GE’s $750 million PCB cleanup project. EPA officials said this week that one of the beams got snagged because it was jutting into the river, causing others to be hauled out with it.

Vetter said archaeologists hope to learn more about the site where Britain’s Fort Edward stood from about 1755 until the 1780s. The excavation is expected to begin in early September, and officials plan to allow the public to view some of the work along the river’s east bank, he said.

“We’re looking at an unfortunate situation and will hopefully turn it into a real understanding into the nature of Fort Edward’s history,” Vetter said.

Orsini, a member of the Fort Edward town board, said the beams’ location were common knowledge in the historic village, 45 miles north of Albany. He said they were the last visible section of what was once Britain’s largest fortification in North America, a sprawling military complex that was home to 15,000 troops during the French and Indian War.

It was the second public black eye for the GE project this month. Two weeks ago, dredging was halted when PCB levels spiked in the river.

The 250-year-old beams were being kept wet and covered at a nearby project site, where Vetter and other archaeologists examined them Thursday. Vetter said the hand-hewn beams are of various lengths, with the biggest about 20 feet long. He said studying the artifacts can reveal the methods and techniques soldiers and engineers employed to build 18th-century fortifications in a wilderness setting.

“We’re used to bracketing and nailing and screwing,” he said. “This is an era where logs were notched, kind of like a Lincoln Log set. The massiveness of the timbers gives you a real idea of the scope of settlements like this.”

Vetter said the actual excavation will be handled by consultants hired for the project, along with GE’s own experts and an archaeologist from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont.

Plans for the beams are uncertain. Tests are planned to determine if they’re contaminated with PCBs. If so, they’ll likely be discarded along with other debris dredged from the river.

Orsini doesn’t want to see that happen.

“I don’t care what the cost is, I want them preserved,” he said.


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