Wednesday October 26, 2011

Clarence Fanto makes a number of level-headed observations in his Oct. 16 opinion column about the Housatonic River clean-up, but his characterization of the Housatonic River Initiative (and other activist groups) as being solely emotional and vengeful against General Electric was both condescending and inaccurate.

One may disagree with the specific positions or tactics that HRI or other groups pursue. But outside of the technicians at EPA and GE itself, there is no group that has committed itself as doggedly as HRI to understanding and participating in every step -- scientific, technical, procedural -- of the slow-grinding clean-up process over the last 20 years.

With all those years in the trenches, HRI is better equipped than anyone to see through the audacious spin that GE uses to soften its bare-knuckle interests. GE's infamous phrase -- "don't destroy the river to save it" -- even turns up as the capper to Mr. Fanto's column.

The cry for GE to clean the river is based on a clear fact pattern: GE polluted the river; the pollution threatens both human and ecological health, and the PCBs won't dissipate on their own; GE has the money to clean and restore the river; GE has a long and successful track record of trying to convince regulators to loosen the reins (look at Pittsfield's Hill 78!).

Lacking GE's access to money and influence, HRI and others aren't howling for revenge; they are pleading for accountability.

TAD AMES

Pittsfield

The writer is president Berkshire Natural Resources Council.