To the editor:

In 1978, under orders from Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering (DEQE), General Electric hired Gerald M. Friedman of RPI to design and implement a grid of groundwater test wells around the GE Transformer Plant.

Massachusetts DEQE issued the order in response to reports of cancer deaths in clusters in the Lakewood neighborhood of Pittsfield. Friedman was selected because he had recently completed the official groundwater study for New York State's "Love Canal" disaster. He was hired by Peter Berle, a summer resident of Stockbridge, the then-commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Dr. Friedman's map and study revealed "the smoking gun" (his words). The test well data revealed a toxic groundwater plume leaving GE's Transformer Plant and extending under the bed of the Housatonic River and into the shallow water table of Lakewood. Dr. Friedman reported the following to General Electric, to Massachusetts DEQE and to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The Lakewood deaths resulted from exposure "to a toxic cocktail of chemicals, PCBs, TCE, and coal tar derivatives, in a mixture one hundred times more lethal to human health than PCBs alone." And Dr. Friedman expressed his assessment that GE faced a $10 billion liability in Pittsfield and down the river.

General Electric, Mass DEQE, Mass DPH, the mayor of Pittsfield and the Office of the Governor received Friedman's map, data and conclusions in 1980. The officials have all known for 42 years that the Lakewood deaths were due to exposure to a "catalyzing effect" of specific PCBs upon coal tar derivatives: PCBs.

In 1981, GE elevated Jack Welch to CEO, and GE began its attack on MA DEQE and MA DPH and the City of Pittsfield in response to the Friedman "smoking gun." The only credible public health data to survive GE's assault has been a GIS canine tumor study by Dr. Moore at Tufts University, which revealed that 70 percent of the tumors from Pittsfield and Lenox came from addresses 200 yards or less from the Housatonic River. As Dr. Moore said, "Dogs are indicator species for humans."

The proposed construction of a 1.2 million cubic yard toxic landfill inside a community that already has the highest-in-the-nation lifelong exposure to PCBs is an act of savagery.

Denny Alsop, Stockbridge