Anyone who thinks Washington, D.C. moves slowly should consider General Electric's response time when it comes to addressing the various messes it makes. Washington moves at warp speed in comparison, and that a proposal for the so-called "Rest of River" cleanup of the Housatonic River as it winds south through the Berkshires is three years overdue is no surprise. GE routinely ties up the Environmental Protection Agency and related organizations with protests and appeals that drag out the process and it appears that is what has gone on here since 2010.
The Consent Decree that cleaned the Housatonic River and a variety of polluted properties of PCBs in Pittsfield was accomplished, however, and the city is better for it. It included financial compensation for the pollution that found its way into the river and elsewhere (GE bridles at the use of the word "dumped") and the communities impacted by the Rest of River cleanup are rightly demanding the same.
Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Sheffield are teaming up to demand compensation, and the Pittsfield City Council is expected to do so when it meets tonight. The Rest of River cleanup will begin in southern Pittsfield and Mayor Daniel Bianchi supports the joint compensation effort. The communities will provide $10,000 each to support the Newton-based Pawa Law Group in its negotiations with GE and the expenses of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), which is the agent for the six communities.
The Rest of River cleanup is often billed as a choice between doing little or nothing, which GE obviously advocates, or "destroying the river in order to save it," which is the GE-approved buzz phrase designed to scare the Berkshires away from a cleanup that goes beyond little or nothing. It seems likely that whenever the EPA delivers its report its recommendations will be located somewhere in the vast middle ground, which should include the use of less invasive biotechnical solutions that emerge over the years of the cleanup. Whatever proposal comes forward, the six communities will have a great case for financial compensation for the damage inflicted and the problems associated with the cleanup to come, and we're confident that the well-regarded Pawa group and the capable, experienced BRPC will make that case convincingly.