Contact Us


All News Releases By Date



Release Date: 07/08/1997
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1064

PITTSFIELD, MA - - Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England office and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protect .ion (DEP) announced that General Electric (GE) will begin removing PCB-contaminated soils adjacent to Building 68 and the Housatonic River and sediments in the river at the GE facility in Pittsfield, MA. "It's about time that after years of study and analysis that cleanup of the river finally begins," said EPA Regional Administrator, John DeVillars. "This action is the first time GE is removing contaminated sediments from the Housatonic River and it marks a good first step in a long road to restoring the river for public use."

This action is being undertaken by GE as part of an EPA order issued in December 1996 and a separate MA DEP order, also issued in December 1996. Officials from the EPA, DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers are overseeing the removal activities.

A 550-foot stretch of sediment in the river and a 170-foot stretch of soil along the riverbank adjacent to GE's East Street facility will be excavated over the next four months. Maximum concentrations in area hot spots are 102,000 ppm of PCBs in the riverbank and 54,000 ppm of PCBs in the sediment. Average concentrations are 7,550 ppm of PCBs in the riverbank and 1,550 ppm of PCBs in the sediment.

PCBs are no longer manufactured but remain in use as non-conductive, fire-resistant additives to coolant liquids in heavy electrical equipment. They are extremely stable chemical compounds that resist breakdown once released into the environment, and are known to accumulate in fish and other organisms. GE used PCBs in the manufacture of electrical transformers at the Pittsfield facility.

GE's contractor, Maxymillian Technologies, Inc., placed metal sheet piling into the Housatonic River, twenty-five feet deep, two-thirds of the way into the river and five hundred feet down the river. This metal barrier will divert the river away from the heavily contaminated area. Any remaining water will then be pumped out of the enclosed area, making the sediment accessible for excavation.

Initial excavation of river sediment range from a depth of one to four feet. At that point, new sediment samples will be taken and analyzed for PCBs to determine if further excavation is needed. In addition, 1,000 cubic yards of soil will be excavated along the riverbank to a depth of 14 feet. The removal action must be completed by October 30, 1997.