Tennessee Gas Pipeline opponents plan flotilla on Lower Spectacle Pond

Spectacle Pond in Otis State Forest in Sandisfield.

SANDISFIELD — A coalition of environmental groups will hold a rally and flotilla Saturday at Lower Spectacle Pond to draw attention to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.'s newly constructed natural gas line.

The event's Great Barrington-based organizer Kathleen Jackson said the event would draw citizens and activists from across New England to the Otis State Forest area for a day of paddle boarding, rafting, canoeing, kayaking and picnicking.

Sponsors of the event include Sugar Shack Alliance, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, No Fracked Gas in Mass and 350MA Berkshire Node.

Jackson said while the event is meant to oppose Tennessee Gas' nearly completed four-mile section of a larger 13-mile gas spur, the day will not feature civil disobedience or arrests.

"Sugar Shack [Alliance] has no intention of doing anything other than enjoying the pond," Jackson said of the group, of which around 60 members have so far been arrested in peaceful protests since early May, including 10 activists arrested Wednesday.

Tennessee Gas' Connecticut Expansion Project loop through Otis State Forest here has outraged activists and residents since the company was granted a work easement on about two miles of state-owned and protected land, allowing it to clear forest to widen its existing pipeline corridor.

Jackson, an attorney who did pro bono work for anti-pipeline activists at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota last winter, said the point of the flotilla is to "witness the beauty of Lower Spectacle Pond, a public resource."

Jackson mentioned recent tests to check the integrity of the pipes using around 500,000 gallons of water from the pond. She also noted the concerns of environmentalists that chemicals in the interior of the pipe coating might eventually contaminate the pond.

Company documents say the water will be discharged in an upland area with vegetation.

And while water for the hydrostatic testing was pumped last week, it is unclear whether the tests are complete and the water already discharged.

Kinder Morgan spokesman David Conover could not be reached Thursday for comment on the testing schedule or results.

And while Conover previously declined comment on whether the discharge water was or would be tested for what may be epoxy residue in Valspar interior coatings, in an email he said that "all hydrostatic testing activities are being conducted under the EPA NPDES (Environmental Protection Agency National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) and supervised by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection."

A MassDEP spokesman recently referred The Eagle's questions about testing for potential chemicals in the Valspar coating to the EPA NPDES permit.

Jackson said that people familiar with pipeline issues will be available at the event to answer questions. She also said it wasn't necessary to have a paddle board or boat to come participate.

And she said the flotilla event might be a way to involve more than just seasoned activists in the local and larger fossil fuel infrastructure issue.

"A lot of people have wanted to get involved but not necessarily get arrested," she said. "This is a family-friendly event and the police are well aware of what's happening. There will be signs and songs, but we're just going to be using the pond in the way it's meant to be used."

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871.