Protesters say 'no' to proposed GE facility in Great Barrington


Photo Gallery | Protest of GE's plan to create a PCB dump in Berkshires

Video | Southern Berkshire residents protest in Great Barrington against GE plan to build a PCB dump

GREAT BARRINGTON — It was a festive event involving a dead serious topic on Main Street on Sunday afternoon.

More then 300 marchers, backed by a talented brass band, walked down Main Street to Town Hall to protest the proposed creation of a toxic waste dump in the village of Housatonic.

Corporate giant General Electric Co. is embrolied in a struggle with state and federal agencies, most notably the Environmental Protection Agency, over the siting of a facility in which to dump contaminated soil.

The soil would be dredged from the Housatonic River and contain polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs), a substance that has been proven to cause cancer in animals and humans.

The EPA has ordered GE to dump the soil at a licensed facility. There are no licensed facilities in Massachusetts. The company is seeking permission to create a dump in Housatonic as a way to, among other things, save hundreds of millions in potential disposal costs.

On Sunday, the crowd marched through Main Street, chanting "No Dump! No Way! Hey, hey GE!"

The Great Barrington Police Department provided traffic control, which was necessary, given the heavy holiday traffic on Main Street on Sunday.

The What Cheer? Brigade, a 20-piece brass band from Providence, R.I., presently on tour in the Northeast, volunteered their time to play for about an hour. What Cheer? has played Lolapollooza, the Newport Jazz Festival and other famous festivals, according to the band's website.

The 300-plus marchers also heard several speakers.

"This is a gorgeous area," noted Housatonic resident and activist Diego Gutierrez. "This is our wealth. This is what we need to preserve."

He urged the crowd to contact local and state representatives the EPA and other environmental agencies to continue to pressure GE not to locate the dump in this town.

One of the ways to do that, he said, was to go to and sign the petition. The website, he said, also has information and links to other informastive sites.

Gabrielle Senza, an artist and another local activist, pointed out that bioremediation, which would destroy PCBs while not disturbing the soil, is a potential remedy that should be considered. She urged the marchers to contact local municipal and environmental officials to recommend that path.

"We're not going to let them dump their crap here!" she said.

This led to a spontaneous chant of

"No dump! No way! Hey, hey! GE!"

Local resident Reed Anderson told the crowd that he and his family just moved to Housatonic from New York City, in large part because of the beauty of the area. He and his family, he said, have no plans to leave, in part because the community has been so kind to him and his family.

"This community is what we love," he said. "We're not going to leave it."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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