Seeking a better cleanup

Monday, July 21
The proposal by Save the Housatonic, a coalition of four Berkshire environmental groups, to seek a special designation for the Upper Housatonic River that will raise the standards for the anticipated cleanup, has considerable potential given the growing consensus that General Electric's plan is inadequate. This designation would give the state a role in the process, a role it should be willing to play.

Save the Housatonic is seeking an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) designation for a roughly 1,300-acre parcel that encompasses the river south of Memorial Park in Pittsfield to roughly two miles south of Woods Pond in Lenox, and includes October Mountain to the East. The environmental review standards would be raised and ideally, consideration would be given to possible alternative cleanup methods, as well as the impact of the cleanup on wildlife and even the proposed bike trail through Pittsfield and Lenox.

The cleanup procedure for the river worked well enough for Pittsfield, but as the work proceeds south, aesthetic considerations enter the picture, as well as concerns about the impact upon the abundant wildlife. ACEC designation could help assure that those concerns are addressed and lessons learned from the cleanup in Pittsfield are applied to the rest of the river.

ACEC designation bars dredging without a state waiver, and it would be counter-productive if ACEC in any way hamstrings a cleanup indefinitely. This concern and others can be raised at a public hearing August 7 at the Lenox Town Hall, but if ACEC can facilitate a cleanup of the river that will assure that the cure is not worse than the disease, that designation will be well worth pursuing.


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