Official provides coal tar details

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"It was predominantly found between Lyman Street and Dawes Avenue," said Dean Tagliaferro, GE/Housatonic project manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "(The material) was sent off-site to a licensed landfill outside the state."

Tagliaferro said 7,000 cubic yards of sediment and soil polluted with coal tar was dug up, which accounted for most of the contamination. "We cleaned up as much as practical," he said. "The bulk of the material was found in the river bed, with some extending into the riverbank."

Tagliaferro added he was unaware of any groundwater being contaminated by the coal tar.

The contamination was discovered between 1999 and 2007 within the 11 2 miles of the Housatonic that GE was cleaning up the PCB's it dumped into the river for decades.

The latest information regarding the coal tar pollution came during a sparsely attended public information meeting at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Federal officials explained why the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice are seeking a $3.8 million settlement with Berkshire Gas to recover the cost of cleaning up the coal tar.

Coal tar is a toxic byproduct of deriving natural gas from coal, a method no longer used.

The pollution apparently came from a manufactured gas plant once located along Deming Street near the river. The plant was eventually moved to East Street in 1902.

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If the U.S District Court in Springfield approves the settlement, the EPA will get $2.7 million and GE the remaining $1.1 million. EPA has said it will put its share back into the fund established eight years ago to finance the PCB cleanup in a 11 2 mile stretch of the Housatonic.

GE is paying for most of the PCB remediation under the consent decree it reached with the EPA, Pittsfield and several other state and federal agencies in 2000.

"The unique aspect about this consent decree with Berkshire Gas is GE and the United States would share the cost and EPA would do the work," said Timothy Conway, an attorney for the EPA.

While a representative of Berkshire Gas was present at the meeting, he did not speak to the proposed settlement nor did he ask any questions regarding the deal.

The company did state in a written statement in late November it "does not oppose the action being taken by the government."

The EPA had alerted Berkshire Gas back in 2002 it could be held responsible for the cost of removing the coal tar.

To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.


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