Tuesday September 4, 2012

The Eagle has in the past urged affected Berkshire communities to get more involved in the Rest of River cleanup as the Housatonic winds south to Connecticut and we're pleased to see that six communities have united to ask the federal Environmental Protection Agency to include them and respond to specific concerns. There is a long way to go with this cleanup in terms of years and miles and Pittsfield and its neighbors to the south obviously have a vested interest in what transpires.

A letter signed by town representatives from Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Sheffield and Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi addressed to EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding (Eagle, September 1) asserts that an independent socio-economic impact study of the cleanup from Pittsfield's Fred Garner Park south underestimates that impact, specifically in the areas of traffic, tourism, outdoor recreation, aesthetics, property values, quality of life and the creation of an on-site landfill. These areas do need fleshing out, and a permanent landfill containing PCBs, possibly at what is now Lane Construction Corporation, is going to confront understandable concern.

General Electric, which has a substantial financial interest in the cleanup, recently requested a seat at the table and was granted one by EPA. This establishes a precedent for closer involvement by the six communities that wrote to the EPA. Pittsfield was heavily involved in the original cleanup that transformed the river and parts of the city dramatically. This more rural cleanup to come may not have the same visible impact but it will potentially affect all of those communities to one degree or another.

The EPA may release a cleanup schedule before the year is out and the thought behind including GE was that the corporation would be more likely to sign on to the cleanup if it was working on the inside rather than observing from the outside. That remains to be seen, but a process that all parties can live with will be more easily attainable if the affected communities are involved as well.