Stakes are high as river communities assess EPA's proposed Housatonic cleanup
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The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and officials from the six communities in the path of the Rest of the River PCB cleanup have begun the daunting task of reviewing the 40-page remediation proposal released by the EPA this week.
"I'll have some interesting reading over the weekend," said BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns. "It will take some time to review."
"I'm only on page five and already have a lot of notes," said Sheffield Selectman Rene Wood. Wood is her town's representative to the Rest of the River Committee comprised of municipal officials also from Pittsfield, Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and Great Barrington.
Each community has kicked $10,000 into a fund used to hire Newton-based Pawa Law Group to negotiate with GE, as well as pay the regional planning agency expenses as the agent for the Pittsfield and the five towns.
Last fall, all six finalized an inter-community legal agreement focused on the expected economic disruption to neighborhoods once the cleanup gets underway, as well as projected impacts on businesses, traffic and the tourism industry, according to BRPC officials.
The municipalities have reserved comment on the specifics of the Rest of the River plan until the EPA presentation in two weeks.
"We want to find the common ground and differences among the six communities," McGrath said. "We'll comment [June 18] and sit back and wait for the lengthy process to unfold."
No matter the final cleanup plan the EPA implements, its impact will be scrutinized, according to Stockbridge Town Administrator Jorja-Ann Marsden.
"We all have concerns regarding the remedy and what happens to each community along the proposed cleanup area," she said.
The EPA proposal calls for shipping removed PCB sediment to a licensed landfill outside Berkshire County, something local and regional officials have pushed for from the beginning.
"State Rep. [William] ‘Smitty' Pignatelli called me the other day and aksed if we were adamant about no landfill in Lee and I said, ‘Yes,'" said Lee Board of Selectmen Chairman David Consolati at Tuesday's regular board meeting. Pignatelli represents the vast majority of communities in the Rest of the River area.
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