Letter: River 'cleanup' a disaster, financially, environmentally
As recently reported in The Eagle, the Housatonic River clean-up is now priced at over half a billion dollars! That's $660,000,000, one of the bigger numbers in Berkshire County. Most of it will be spent accessing and ripping out the banks and sucking up the bottom of the river and shipping the mud to God knows where. And, oh, it will only take 13 years! Thirteen years of trucks wearing out roads, raising dust and burning millions of gallons of diesel fuel.
Worse yet, there is no telling how long, if ever, it will take for the river to look again the way it looks now. We know the river has a slight (yes, slight) infection, but it does not need open heart surgery. It needs loving care.
The most sensible solution would be to let sleeping PCBs lie, to look looking for a holistic solution, say, finding a micro-organism that will break down the contaminants. Such organisms exist now, but they are slow PCB eaters — fiddling with their genes to make them better at it should a doable goal.
But spending those millions on moving mud around while disfiguring the river makes no sense. There are so many other, more pressing, problems. Problems like the puzzle of drug addiction and discovering a treatment that works; like our underfunded cultural organizations; like our stressed out school budgets; like the high price of energy in our region, the second highest in America; like the need for affordable housing; like promoting conditions for sustainable economic development, like controlling the ticks that really are harming people, unlike the PCBs stuck in the mud, harming no one.
None of that seems to matter to the River Keepers. They are not going to let go of our river. They have an unhealthy obsession with five little letters — PCBGE. It's never good to waste so much money, but worse, when we look back at the "clean-up" of the Housatonic River in the perspective of time, we will see an unprecedented, un-natural, disaster brought on by nothing more than stubbornness and a lack of imagination.
I know, everyone will say re-directing the GE money is too complicated. But why not think about it? Of course it can be done if enough people want to do it. And if it is done, there will be no losers, only winners. GE will come back to the county as a friend after all the years of being the arch-enemy. What's wrong with that?
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