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EPA Requires Substantial Changes to GE’s Clean Up Analysis for Housatonic River +++ Inadequate Consideration of Impacts on River Ecosystem

Release Date: 09/09/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Sept. 9, 2008) - EPA has completed an extensive review of the March 2008 report by General Electric Corp. regarding GE’s analysis of clean up alternatives and preferences to clean up PCB contamination from the “Rest of River” portion of the Housatonic River south of Pittsfield, Mass.

In comments sent today to GE, EPA detailed critical issues that are inadequately addressed in the report – especially regarding impacts on the river ecosystem during clean up work, and impacts on aesthetic enjoyment of the area by local residents. GE must now address over 150 concerns raised by the Agency and submit additional detailed information within 90 days.

EPA’s primary concern is to ensure that GE’s clean up work on the Housatonic River will be fully protective of public health and the health of the surrounding river ecosystem in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“Cleaning up the portions of the Housatonic River south of Pittsfield is one of the most significant environmental challenges for this generation of New Englanders,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “It will be complicated and challenging for us to both remove elevated levels of PCBs from the river, while also protecting the valuable aesthetic and recreational values of this beautiful rural waterway. We can all agree that we need to do this work, and get it right.”

During the review of the 700-plus page Corrective Measures Study (CMS), EPA received hundreds of comments from area residents and involved parties, including several state government agencies in Mass. and Conn. Comments provided to EPA largely reflected EPA concerns that the CMS as submitted did not adequately address impacts to the river ecosystem, to sensitive species, and to aesthetic, recreational and quality-of-life values of the river for area residents. EPA is also concerned that the GE CMS does not provide adequate detail on potential placement of a landfill for consolidation of, or facilities for treatment of, removed contaminated sediment. Nor did GE adequately evaluate the use of rail transportation for off-site disposal alternatives.

Consistent with the desire to preserve and protect the river, EPA believes the final clean up plan should include a phased and adaptive approach that allows the flexibility to accommodate new knowledge and advances in technology over time. New clean up technologies that are not yet proven to be effective may in the future become viable alternatives to ensure a clean river, while being potentially less disruptive to the river and ecosystem than current technologies.

As clean up work on the Housatonic moves from an urban, channelized river in Pittsfield to a more natural, meandering and rural environment downstream, EPA believes it is critical that the remedy avoid and/or minimize negative impacts on sensitive plant and animal species and sensitive areas – and restore the river and floodplain to its current character to the greatest extent possible.

EPA will continue with its robust outreach program throughout the lifespan of the project to ensure that the public continues to be actively involved as the clean up progresses, and as new developments occur in science or technology.

“We are very fortunate to have such a high level of interest among communities up and down the River, and EPA intends to continue to seek their involvement at each stage as we go forward,” remarked Regional Administrator Varney.

The public is invited to attend the next meeting of the Citizens Coordinating Council for the GE Pittsfield / Housatonic River Project, which will meet on Wed. Sept. 17, from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. at the Lee Middle and High School Cafeteria. All are welcome to attend and participate in the CCC meeting.

EPA has requested that GE address the concerns with the proposed CMS and provide additional detailed information within 90 days. Following a thorough review of that revised GE proposal, EPA will be in a position to propose its own preferred clean up alternative(s) regarding a final clean up remedy. As always, EPA will seek the public’s input during this process.

More information:

EPA Comment Letter and Attachments to GE

Summary of EPA comments to GE

EPA's GE/Housatonic River Clean Up website (

CCC meetings, including a draft agenda for the Sept. 17 meeting (

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