How to comment on revised cleanup plan for Housatonic River PCBs

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PITTSFIELD — Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency is opening its portals to public comment in the Berkshires — but only for a time, and on a specific topic.

On Thursday, the agency released its revised permit for the cleanup that the General Electric Co. must perform for polluted sections of the Housatonic River and its flood plain.

Starting on Tuesday and running through Aug. 28, the EPA will accept comments on changes made to the permit since it was released in late 2016. The company is being required to spend up to 13 years, at a cost of more than half a billion dollars, to remove polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen, from reaches of the river.

The agency's new 45-day comment period is targeted.

"EPA is only seeking public comment on the proposed changes contained in the Draft Revised 2020 Permit compared to the 2016 Permit," an agency spokeswoman said in a statement. "All other cleanup requirements in the 2016 Permit remain unchanged."

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The changes reflect the EPA's agreement to allow lower-level PCBs to be disposed of in a new landfill at a commercial site in Lee. The company, meantime, agreed that the scope of work would expand, as The Eagle reported Thursday, after more than a year of mediation.

In the nearly four years since the last permit was shaped, the cost of the cleanup originally outlined would have climbed from $613 million to $774 million, the EPA said this week. The newly described remedy is expected to cost $576 million. That sum is smaller in large part because about 1 million cubic yards of PCB-tainted material will not have to be trucked out of state; the 2020 permit calls for a minimum of 100,000 cubic yards to be taken to a licensed disposal facility that GE can select.

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In 2014, the EPA received 2,100 pages of public comments from over 140 commenters as it prepared to release the 2016 permit, which GE challenged in court.

To see this year's changes in the permit, people can visit the permit at an EPA website: Click on "Draft Revised 2020 Permit/Proposed Remedial Action for the Housatonic River "Rest of River."

The changes are indicated in red, either with new text or strikeouts.

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Comments can be emailed to, faxed to 617-918-0028 or mailed to GE-Housatonic River Site Public Comments, EPA Region 1, 5 Post Office Square (Mail Code SEMC-07-01), Boston, MA 02109-3912.

Additional information on the cleanup permit modifications issued Thursday can be found online at

A "virtual" public hearing is planned for Aug. 26. Details on that session, and how to participate, have not yet been announced. Oral comment also will be accepted at that session.

The EPA said information on the Aug. 26 session will be provided later on its specialized website,

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


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