EPA river cleanup plan ignores better procedures

To the editor:

The March 18 editorial "(GE's responsibility to Berkshires") skips over several deficiencies in the EPA Housatonic River cleanup plan, the most serious being:

* The plan removes only part of the sediment (presumed contaminated?) in the pond. The original survey in 2000 reported a maximum depth of 16 ft. with sediment thickness varying from 0.5 to 10 ft., and most depths varying from 1 to 3 ft. If the pond were dredged to original lake bed elevation, it would remove all contaminated sediment, and the pond in addition, would improve significantly as a sediment trap.

* The plan sets no parameters for how sediment will be excavated and transported. If sediment were removed by hydraulic dredging, it could be pumped as a slurry in a pipeline directly to a plant on shore for processing. The need for barging, off loading and further transporting by trucks with necessary staging and access roads would be eliminated. There would be significant cost savings for GE.

* The plan sets no requirements for processing contaminated sediment. A processing plant similar to that used on the Fox River cleanup in Wisconsin could dewater and desand the sediment, treat the water for discharging back into the river, and filter press the remaining silt for removal from the site.


The need for protective capping of sediment left in the pond would be eliminated. Protective capping is used if complete dredging is not possible for budgetary or other reasons.

These new procedures could be adopted to the backwaters and upper reaches of the river as well. The time for dredging and processing sediment in the pond would be less than three years. There would be no transport of contaminated sediment from the pond using trucks. There would be no transport of protective capping to the pond using trucks. This issue would greatly reduce the impact on local roads and the communities.

Harold Nelson, Pittsfield