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EPA Regional Administrator Tours Housatonic River Cleanup in Pittsfield

Release Date: 09/17/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

PITTSFIELD, MA - Joined by state and local officials, Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, today visited Pittsfield to review the recently completed cleanup of the first half-mile of the Housatonic River and the start of cleanup work in the next 1 miles of the river.

"The progress that's been achieved here over the past few years is impressive and it's a credit to the hard work and commitment of the many parties involved in this huge endeavor," said Varney, who toured the river after a morning meeting with many of the key players in the PCB cleanup. "But this milestone is only a beginning and I look forward to returning as other areas of the Housatonic and Berkshire County are restored."

The river cleanup is a key component of a comprehensive PCB cleanup plan approved by a federal judge in October 2000 for the Housatonic River and Berkshire County in western Massachusetts.

Finished last week, the cleanup of the first half-mile of the Housatonic included the removal of about 18,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated river sediments and bank soils and treatment of over 180 million gallons of water. Sediments and bank soils were excavated as deep as 12 feet in some areas of the river. The cleanup work was done by GE, under EPA's direction.

The cleanup of the next 1 miles of the river in Pittsfield – between the Lyman Street Bridge and the confluence of the river's East and West Branches – began this week and is expected to take four to six years. The cleanup of this section will include excavation of about 95,000 cubic yards of sediments and bank soils. The work is being done by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with most of the costs being borne by GE. EPA has negotiated access agreements with more than a dozen property owners near and along the river so that the necessary construction work can be done.

"The PCB cleanup in Pittsfield and the Housatonic River continues to be an important priority for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection," said DEP Commissioner Lauren A. Liss. "As we mark this important milestone today, we renew our commitment to the cleanup as it moves downstream and to the continued cooperation among the EPA, GE, the city and its citizens, and other interested parties, which is essential for success of this project."

EPA is continuing its large-scale investigation of the rest of the river below the confluence of the East and West Branches. The investigation includes an ecological risk assessment, a human health risk assessment and a river modeling study designed to evaluate the fate of PCBs in the river system. Following completion by EPA, these assessments will be peer reviewed by independent experts. After extensive public comment from Massachusetts and Connecticut residents, a final decision on the cleanup of the rest of the river is expected in 2005.