EPA outlines status report for Housatonic River clean-up
It's taken years, but Massachusetts leaders, along with reps from the Environmental Protection Agency, say they are close to finalizing a plan for the second phase of PCB removal from the Housatonic River. They shared a progress report with the community Thursday night. Our Brandon Walker has the details.
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LENOX, Mass. -- A dirty not-so-well-kept secret lurks within a sun soaked Woods Pond along the Housatonic River. Call it the terminus, if you will, for the bulk of PCB contamination.
"This is a big-sized project. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars to do this," said Curt Spaulding, region 1 administrator, Environmental Protection Agency.
Spaulding is referring to phase two of PCB clean-up in what's been tagged the "rest of river," from where phase one stopped in Pittsfield to roughly 100 miles south, where the river dumps into the Long Island Sound.
Representatives from the EPA, along with Massachusetts and Connecticut environmental leaders, hosted a public meeting Thursday to give a progress report on what all parties are thinking for a plan of action.
In all, they've proposed removing 25 percent of PCBs from the river, an amount they say is healthy for humans and wildlife alike.
"The question is how to clean it up and this document reflects a status report on the various discussions about that," said Kenneth Kimmell, commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
The document, officials stress, isn't final. Instead, it consolidates clean-up proposals from the EPA and the state.
The bulk of the dredging and sediment removal will take place where most, 28 percent, of the contamination lies. A ten mile stretch, tagged as Reach 5, from Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenox.
"So, this would remove a lot of them. EPA has proposed putting a cap after you deepen it to further prevent any PCBs from being stirred back up," Kimmell said.
The status report breaks up Reach 5 into three sub categories.
River sediment would be removed and replaced in Reach 5A and 5C with dredging and riverbed capping.
Reach 5B would get limited clean-up because it's believed contamination along the riverbed there isn't as bad there.
Public reaction is mixed.
"Try to get away from the dredging and capping methods, which are old school, dirty, inefficient and don't get the job done," said Barbara Cianfarini, co-founder, Citizens for PCB Removal.
Sediment would be removed via cargo rail along the Housatonic.
Officials say the project will take years to complete, though a start date has not been set.
"Well, that depends a lot on how we do," Curt Spaulding said. "We have a plan, we're bringing it to the public."
From there, the EPA hopes to use what it learns from public meetings to create a formal plan for cleanup.
Right now, it seems it will take anywhere from six to twelve months before that plan is finalized.
General Electric used PCBs as fire retardants at its now closed Pittsfield plant.
It will pay for clean-up costs.