Jennifer Tabakin, Town Manager
334 Main St.
Great Barrington, MA 01230
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Statement of Great Barrington Selectboard Regarding Housatonic River Cleanup
GREAT BARRINGTON — Members of the Selectboard are issuing a statement today to update the community on the status of the cleanup of the Housatonic River.
More than 20 years ago, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered General Electric to remove PCBs from the river, which had served as a dumping ground for 45 years prior to being banned in 1979. Today, GE is battling with the EPA to finish remedial permitting efforts for the “Rest of the River” stretch that effects Great Barrington, Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge and Sheffield. The six communities have banded together to form the Housatonic Rest of River Municipal Committee to ensure they are protected from any damage caused by the project. The EPA and GE have until March 15 to reach an agreement or a formal dispute resolution will begin. Great Barrington officials have two key issues with the remedial efforts and are urging the EPA to protect the town going forward.
“As members of this board, we are asking that GE clean up the river to top standards and take responsibility in perpetuity for any material that remains in the river due to capping. Additionally, we are against the formation of a landfill located at the Housatonic’s Rising Pond, one of the locations GE is looking to store these carcinogenic PCBs. Not only would this be a decrease in the quality of life for our residents, but will continue to serve as a toxic resting ground for material that has negative effects on the environment. The EPA is in agreement on this matter and we are asking for their continued support throughout the legal process.
“Additionally, Great Barrington serves as a lead member of the Rest of River Municipal Committee and has met with the EPA, state senators and representatives, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and other groups over the last three years to advocate for our town’s needs and our bordering communities that are also impacted by this project.
“We support the EPA’s directive to remove the materials to be placed in an out of state licensed facility.”
“Together, the Rest of River Municipal Committee has retained the Pawa Law Group, which specializes in environmental issues, to address the negative socioeconomic impacts the cleanup will have on area businesses, roads, bridges, infrastructure and more.
“We have spent approximately 15 years advocating for our needs, and are committed to working with all stakeholders to create a remedial plan that will be the most beneficial and least detrimental to our residents and the town.”
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of man-made compounds. They were primarily used in electrical equipment until they were banned due to their environmental toxicity. PCBs have been found to have harmful effects on the immune, reproductive and neurological systems in humans and animals.