EPA to unveil developments in Housatonic River cleanup

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LENOX — The regional chief of the Environmental Protection Agency will be in the area Monday to outline "significant recent developments" in efforts to remove toxins from the Housatonic River.

Dennis Deziel, the EPA's New England regional administrator, will provide that update at 1 p.m. at the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, 10 Willow Creek Road in Lenox, the agency announced Friday.

The old train station sits a few hundred yards from Woods Pond, an area known to hold more than one-quarter of the PCB-tainted sediments that are the subject of the EPA's long-planned Rest of River cleanup.

The General Electric Co. released polychlorinated biphenyls into the river over many decades through its manufacture of electrical transformers in Pittsfield. The substance, a probable carcinogen, was banned in 1979.

In an announcement Friday, the EPA said Deziel will be joined Monday by state and local officials and by "stakeholders" in the cleanup, which would continue steps taken by GE in Pittsfield to address its legacy of pollution.

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The Rest of River cleanup, involving the towns of Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Sheffield and Stockbridge, has been the subject of a more than yearlong mediation effort.

In 2016, the EPA issued a final permit for the Rest of River work, detailing actions GE must take over more than 10 years at a cost of $613 million.

But the company appealed that permit, leading to the case's review in June 2017 by three justices with the nation's top environmental court. That body, in a decision issued in January 2018, asked the EPA's New England region to reconsider its requirement that PCB-tainted sediment be shipped to facilities outside of Massachusetts.

At a Jan. 16 public meeting of the Housatonic River Citizens Coordinating Council, a party to the mediation said that the question of whether or not to allow local burial of PCBs remained under discussion.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has opposed local PCB waste dumping and declined to participate in the mediation.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-588-8341.


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