Our Opinion: Keep up with cleanup


The "Rest of River" cleanup process for the Housatonic River has dragged on for years and will drag on for years more, but it will happen and it is wise to be out front in anticipating possible problems as some local officials are doing. Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen recently joined officials from Pittsfield and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on a tour of the General Electric-Environmental Protection Agency PCB removal project on the Hudson River, and he urged Lenox Selectmen to schedule a public information session to inform townspeople of what can be anticipated.

The EPA released a $619 million plan in June for cleaning the river from southern Pittsfield to the Connecticut border which did not receive rave reviews from any faction -- a possible indicator that the agency found an effective middle ground. The cleanup will focus on PCB-polluted "hot spots" like Lenox's Woods Pond, which would be drained, excavated and refilled under the proposal. There are many questions to be answered about the logistics of this process, including how contaminated material will be transported. No one but GE wants a landfill to be established in the area, but absent a landfill, it will be necessary to remove and transport this material from and through environmentally sensitive areas.

It is unreasonable for reasons of cost and potential damage to the river and its banks to sweep the Housatonic clean of PCBs, but the status quo is not acceptable either. In a report from January of last year, EPA scientists reiterated that PCBs are "probable human carcinogens," in part but not exclusively because of the rare liver cancers detected in animals exposed to the chemical as well PCB workers. The EPA's peer-reviewed cancer reassessment is in keeping with the conclusions of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Plans may change as public hearings are held and GE drags out the process with its objections. Best for all to stay informed.


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