Our Opinion: Ambitious EPA plan to restore Housatonic

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The clean-up of the Housatonic River that began late in the 20th century with planning leading to the Consent Decree will extend well into the 21st. Someday, however, this will be a dramatically cleaner river.

That some in the local environmental community are dissatisfied with a plan that General Electric is certain to protest as overkill indicates that the Environmental Protection Agency found a good middle ground (Eagle, Oct. 5.) In fact, in choosing the third most extensive clean-up of its nine options, the EPA went past the middle to an ambitious effort in keeping with the considerable task at hand.

The $613 million "Rest of River" project calls for dredging eight miles of the 10-1/2 mile stretch with PCB hot spots addressed in the remainder of the river. The dredging, excavation and capping would remove 89 percent of the contamination from the river, its banks and backwaters, and the PCB-laden material removed would transported away rather than placed in a local landfill as was so controversial in Pittsfield. A provision added to the 2014 proposal is designed to encourage coordination with communities and landowners during the design and construction phase.

Even without factoring in lawsuits from General Electric and/or the environmental community, this project would take at least 13 years to complete. It is a painfully slow process, but the EPA has produced a tough, aggressive plan that factors in lessons learned from the Pittsfield cleanup. It will, if carried out, produce a cleaner river than the Berkshires could have ever hoped for two or three decades ago.

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