EPA/GE Settlement Agreement on Housatonic Cleanup

After almost 20 years of legal challenges and lawsuits, the EPA, GE and a Rest of the River Municipal Committee agreed unanimously to approve this settlement. The committee was comprised of Representatives from towns of Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Sheffield and Stockbridge, as well as the City of Pittsfield. NOTE: A clarification was requested by the Housatonic River Initiative that the endorsements and support shared by those participating in the settlement process at the meeting by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Massachusetts Audubon Society did not represent their views.

We are working now with MAR legal counsel to help REALTORS understand the disclosure needs for properties along, nearby, or abutting the river or dump site.  We have added it to the Berkshire Realtor Member Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday February 26th at the Pittsfield Country Club (Also coming soon, new MLS polices and more to be discussed)  REGISTER TODAY

The EPA will participate in 3 additional public informational opportunities to explain the Settlement Agreement and answers questions from citizens.  EPA also intends to issue a revised Permit outlining the proposed changes to the cleanup plan and will accept public comments on the revisions later this year.  Public meeting will be as follows:

  • Wednesday, February 19th @ 6 p.m. at Lee High School
  • Thursday, February 20th @ 6 p.m. @ Monument Mountain Hight School
  • Thursday, March 5th @ 6 p.m. at the Herberg Middle School Auditorium (Pomeroy Ave)

Here is a summary of what we know:

  • There will be one dump site location at the former Lane Construction quarry in Lee. GE will acquire a 75-acres off Woodland Road and build this 20-acre landfill.
  • This site will house the least contaminated soil (50 parts per million of PCBs, which is the toxicity threshold under the Toxic Substances Control Act); while anything over that will be sent for out-of-state disposal, in a federally approved facility.
  • There is an expectation that the site will employ all of the technology advancements possible both now and in the future, to contain and remediate the soil.
  • The actual cleanup plan will cover 5 miles of river and floodplains from Fred Garner Park in Pittsfield to the Connecticut line.
  • The savings from the local burial will enable 15 new cleanup locations. Previously 100 acres were to be capped, but due to savings from the Lee dump, those sites will now be remediated by removing the tainted soils.
  • Some savings from using a local burial site will also shared ($63 million) with the city of Pittsfield and the 5 affected towns. According to the Berkshire Eagle, “Lee and Lenox will each receive $25 million, with Great Barrington, Sheffield and Stockbridge each getting $1.5 million.
  • Pittsfield will get $8 million to add to their economic development fund and address blighted GE buildings and neighborhoods.

Materials from the Meeting:

EPA Official Statement and information

Statements from the Rest of the River Municipal Committee.

GE commits to getting started on planning right away, even before a revised permit is final. Also, it agrees to work with affected communities to ease local dislocations due to the project, originally expected to take 10 to 13 years. The EPA, for its part, commits to exploring alternative methods of reducing the harm of PCBs to the environment and health.

More information: https://www.epa.gov/ge-housatonic