Meeting scheduled to discuss PCB removal from Housatonic River

December 2, 2018 GMT

The public will have a chance to comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan for General Electric to remove PCBs from the Housatonic River at a meeting in Massachusetts on Monday.

Cleanup efforts have been in the works for years, first focusing on Pittsfield, Mass., where GE’s plant was located, and the immediately surrounding river. Attentions have now turned to the rest of the river, which is 150 miles long and travels from Hindsale, Mass., through Connecticut and out to Long Island Sound.

As it stands, Connecticut isn’t addressed in the plan — beyond monitoring for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyl, in fish, said Dennis Regan, the Berkshire Director for the Housatonic Valley Association, which also protects the Housatonic watershed in Connecticut.

The meeting will provide an update on the mediation so far and the agency’s plans for future cleanup. It will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School Auditorium, 197 East St, Lenox, Mass.


Regan said the EPA scheduled the meeting because concerns were raised recently that decisions about the cleanup were being made behind closed doors. He said this meeting will help share these plans in the open, as well as get public feedback.

“People should get their voice heard,” he said. “It does matter.”

GE manufactured and serviced electrical transformers containing PCBs from 1932 through 1977. The EPA banned PCBs in 1979 because they can cause health problems, including cancer.

“Years of PCB and industrial chemical use, and improper disposal, led to extensive contamination around Pittsfield, Mass., as well as down the entire length of the Housatonic River,” according to the EPA.

Most of the contamination is found between the confluence of the east and west branches in Pittsfield and Woods Pond Dam in Lenox and further into Rising Pond in Great Barrington, Mass., which is the latest part addressed in the EPA plan.

Currently, more than 50 percent of the PCBs that enter Woods Pond go over the dam and continue downstream, even into Connecticut, according to the EPA.

Between 100,000 and 600,000 pounds of PCBs are estimated to be in the river sediment and floodplain soil.

These are filtered out as the river travels, dropping sediment at each dam, Regan said.

GE, Pittsfield, the EPA, Massachusetts and Connecticut entered a consent decree in 2000, which split the work into three phases, focusing on the worst parts first. The first two phases have been completed and are now looking at the third part, which is called “Rest of River.”

“Everyone agreed that was the nastiest of the nasty,” Regan said of the first two miles already remediated.