EPA releases potential PCB cleanup parameters for Housatonic River

Friday May 18, 2012

PITTSFIELD - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to remove up to 1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment and soil from the Housatonic River and its floodplain, according to a brief released by the agency Friday morning.

In an eight-page review of potential PCB cleanup approaches for the Housatonic, the EPA outlines what it describes a "preliminary and tentative" plans for managing contamination south of the confluence of the river's east and west branches at Fred Garner Park in Pittsfield.

The EPA said it plans to use a mix of capping, dredging, excavating and monitored natural recovery to achieve human health benchmarks for direct contact with sediment and to reduce contamination to acceptable levels for fish, wildlife and other organisms over the long term. The vast majority of the work outlined would take place between the confluence and Woods Pond dam in Lenox.

Early estimates by the EPA suggest between 750,000 cubic yards and 1 million cubic yards of sediment and soil could be removed, though the agency acknowledges that could mean as much as three-quarters of the total contaminated earth would remain in place.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are probable cancer-causing chemicals that GE used at its former power transformer facility in Pittsfield. The chemicals were either leaked, dumped or spilled from the plant into the Housatonic. GE stopped using PCBs in its transformer production in 1977 - the same year most uses were banned by the federal government.

The EPA is expected to formally release its draft proposal for the Housatonic this summer.

The report also makes mention of working with the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut to create a "structured process for inter-agency engagement" prior to any final permitting.

The state and federal agencies held a series of meeting on the Housatonic in recent months leading up to the release of this report. Those meetings came as a results of continued calls for more input in

The EPA will host a meeting at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, to go over the status report.

Massachusetts environmental officials are expected to be in attendance.

To reach Trevor Jones: tjones@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6214.

Follow him on Twitter: @BE_TrevorJones.


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