To the editor:
Admittedly, there are many facets of the decades of work of which I am unaware or beyond my ken that led to the current Housatonic River cleanup agreement; yet, I am compelled to comment and hope that the current round of virtual hearings is not just window dressing. Indeed, attempting to conclude such a monumental agreement during a pandemic should merit suspension, virtual meetings notwithstanding.
To start, no one wants to live near a toxic dumpsite. Regardless of your politics and even sometimes regardless of the science, policies are created, adapted and abandoned by politicians who are infamously influenced by lobbyists; so, waiting a few months more to push ahead should not impact the contamination but may significantly impact the outcomes.
With General Electric Co. having won part of its appeal of the initial decree, it appears that a major driver of the current agreement concerned the cost-effective disposition of PCBs, which the parties were subsequently directed to renegotiate, thereby changing the dynamic to avoiding worst-case scenarios. Thus, concessions resulted in one dump being better than three, local disposition of lower-level toxins and possible future leaching of lower-grade toxins being worth the trade-off concessions by GE despite the losses of those in proximity to the toxic dump (not to mention the images and reputation of the Berkshires and Lee).
Also, questions remain regarding how the agreement will be effectively enforced. Will corporate welfare trump public health, and will the fox be guarding the henhouse?
In conclusion, I remain confident about the intentions of our local representatives and am thankful for their service. I believe that they achieved the best they could in the process as it evolved (despite apparent examples of past EPA cleanup failures, promising alternative solutions not being attempted, conflicting expert opinions regarding danger levels of PCBs, etc). Yet, how can I agree to establishing a toxic dump in my town, injuring my neighbors, leaving behind toxins "capped" in the river and concentrated in a dump which cannot guarantee permanent isolation, all because the original agreement that alleviated all of these was too expensive for the culprit (which remains a multibillion-dollar enterprise)?
If the EPA wants to be a partner and protector in this process, then perhaps the government should help in picking up the part of the tab that our poor corporate friend can't seem to afford because I cannot support this agreement.
The writer is a town representative for Lee's 2nd District.