Our opinion: A river cleanup balance


As the process for the Housatonic River cleanup from southern Pittsfield to Connecticut ramps up, it can be said that if any one party to the cleanup is completely happy there must be something wrong with that process. There is no perfect solution, only one that does the most good while causing the least harm.

Curt Spalding, the New England Regional Administrator for the EPA, met with The Eagle’s editorial board meeting Monday in advance of Wednesday’s first public meeting on the Rest of the River cleanup plan unveiled two weeks ago. The $619 million plan met with criticism from General Electric, which regards it as overly ambitious, and environmental groups, which see it is not ambitious enough. Residents who live near the river worry about the consequences of the cleanup in their neighborhood.

Mr. Spalding indicated that changes to the plan could result from the public hearings and that technological advances that emerge during the lengthy cleanup process would be considered. Should GE decide to go to court to fight the cleanup plan for PCBs introduced into the river from the corporation’s Pittsfield plant the process would be lengthened considerably, but the EPA head urged everyone to "give GE a chance to show what they will do."

In putting the plan together, Mr. Spalding said the EPA sought to find a balanced solution to a complex problem, and said all parties involved "have to look at what their neighbors are saying." There are indeed competing interests here and no one should say that anyone’s interests are invalid or unworthy of consideration.

Mr. Spalding also asked that "at the end of the day, the civility level should remain where it is" at this point in the process. The civility level declined precipitously during the cleanup of the river and properties in Pittsfield, creating ill will that wasn’t constructive. Ideally, this can be avoided as the process moves forward.


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