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STATEMENT OF JOHN P. DeVILLARS CONCERNING EPA/GE NEGOTIATIONS

Release Date: 09/25/1998
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

Boston: Earlier this morning, the public agency and GE negotiating teams achieved an agreement in principle that sets the course for the environmental and economic restoration of Pittsfield and southern Berkshire County. The agreement provides for substantial investments in the cleanup of the Housatonic River, the GE plant site, and other contaminated properties, as well as brownfields redevelopment in Pittsfield and compensation for natural resource damages. With this agreement, we have moved the cleanup onto the fast track. We have honored our most important responsibility - to protect the health and environment of Pittsfield and Berkshire County. We have built our agreement not only on a strong legal and scientific foundation, but on basic principles of fairness and equity. And we have demonstrated that whenever possible, the greatest common good is achieved through cooperation, not confrontation; through collaboration, rather than polarization.

This agreement affects many different interests - neighborhood residents, environmentalists, business people, towns throughout the valley from Pittsfield well into Connecticut. If each of these constituencies examines only the portion of the agreement most directly affecting them, they may well find something less than what they deem perfect. But if they look at not only their own interests but also the common good, I believe they will find, as we do, much to celebrate and take pride in.

The agreement in principle ensures that the work on the cleanup of the Housatonic River, the GE plant site and numerous other properties will proceed on the expedited schedule outlined by EPA last spring. It is important to note that many of these projects were begun by GE, EPA and MA DEP as negotiations were taking place this past spring and summer.

The next 12 months will be a period of intense activity on numerous fronts, each of which will lead to a cleaner, safer community.

    • GE will continue to move forward with work to clean up the first half-mile of the river sediments and bank soils. A conceptual work plan was submitted by GE this summer and EPA is currently in the process of reviewing that plan. River remediation work will begin next spring and the work is likely to be completed in two years.
    • In November of this year, GE will begin implementing additional source-control measures to prevent continuing PCB discharges into the river that are coming from plumes and other pollution sources on GE's property. A monitoring program will be undertaken to ensure that the source-control measures are working.
    • The 1 miles of the river below the GE plant site will be cleaned up, starting immediately after cleanup of the first half mile. The process to determine how best to cleanup the 1 miles is already underway. EPA began extensive sampling of the stream sediments, banks and adjacent floodplain properties in July. EPA will continue that work over the next three months. Following this, we will immediately analyze the various cleanup options and submit a draft proposal to the community for review next spring. The cleanup of the first two miles of river is expected to be completed in four to five years.
    • For the rest of the river a cleanup decision is expected to be made by EPA in 2001.
    • A full and complete cleanup of Allendale School will be initiated while the children are on their 1999 summer vacation.
    • As we move down the river with cleanup, we anticipate remediating all residential, commercial and recreational properties adjacent to the river in a logical sequence.
I would like to commend all of our public agency partners for their efforts in achieving this settlement. They brought uncommon energy and intelligence to their work. And through some tough days and long nights they always were able to make the public interest their interest. They have served the citizens of Pittsfield, Berkshire County and Connecticut well.

Among the dozens of public servants who have worked on this issue, two individuals - Pittsfield Mayor Gerry Doyle and City Council President Tom Hickey - deserve special note. They were there every step of the way on behalf of their city. They pushed us hard. They worked long hours, day in and day out. And, without fail, they made the health and economic well being of the citizens of Pittsfield their number one priority. We owe them our sincere thanks and appreciation.

In addition, we want to thank GE for joining us in this partnership. In recent months, the company has demonstrated a sincere commitment to achieving a settlement and to doing the work that is necessary to get this complex project moving forward. In essence, GE has stepped up to the plate. We appreciate that. And we look forward to working constructively with them in the coming months so that we can continue our efforts to make the Housatonic River Valley and its communities clean, safe and prosperous once again.

And perhaps most importantly, we very much appreciate the patience of the community as GE and the government agencies took the time necessary to reach this agreement. It took longer than any of us expected or liked. But we believe our time and effort will pay substantial dividends for all the citizens of this community well into the future. As this agreement moves from concept to reality, we look forward to the community's continued thoughtful and valuable participation.