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New Investigations at GE Pittsfield / Housatonic River Site will Look for Additional Buried Drums

Release Date: 09/15/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan (, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: September 15, 2005; Release # dd050904

(Pittsfield, Mass.) - Additional investigations will be undertaken at General Electric’s Newell Street “Area II” to identify if additional buried drums are present. The new investigations have been agreed on by EPA and the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (MADEP), along with GE. The work is prompted by the discovery of buried drums encountered during cleanup activities already underway at the site.

The additional investigations include using geophysical survey methods which can identify areas where there potentially may be buried drums, transformers or capacitors. After results of the survey are received, EPA and MA DEP will discuss with GE appropriate locations to conduct test pits to confirm if drums, capacitors or transformers are present. GE will remove, sample, and dispose of all liquid-filled containers at a permitted off-site facility. All drums and drum remnants that contain solid material will be disposed of at GE’s lined on-site landfill.

Newell Street Area II, which encompasses over eight acres, includes a former GE parking lot, a property owned by Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO), and several undeveloped parcels. It is one of 20 soil removal actions, or cleanups, being undertaken as part of the Consent Decree for the GE Pittsfield / Housatonic River Project. The drum investigation plan includes the WMECO property and the undeveloped parcels. The GE parking lot, which is scheduled to be capped by an engineered barrier, is not part of the investigation at this time.

EPA believes that the new investigation plan is an appropriate step to address the potential of additional unknown buried drums. Based on results of the ongoing survey, EPA and MADEP, along with GE, will assess any necessary measures for the GE parking lot.

EPA received GE’s draft investigation plan Sept. 6th. Following careful assessment by EPA and MADEP, and considering comments received at a recent Citizens Coordinating Council meeting, EPA has conditionally approved the plan.

EPA’s approval letter requires GE to incorporate the following in their investigation plan:

    • expanding the investigation and drum removal area to include the undeveloped parcels located west of the Western MA Electric Company property;
    • removing and properly disposing of all drums containing liquid that are discovered during the investigation at an off-site facility;
    • incorporating test pits as a second phase of the investigation; and,
    • excavating and disposing of any capacitors and transformers encountered during the investigation as well as drums.
Community input on this recent issue has been useful. EPA is committed to continuing to keep the community informed about results of the additional investigations.

The initial cleanup plan for the area called for the excavation of 14,500 cubic yards of soil from the property at depth ranging from 1 to 10 feet and backfilling of the area with clean fill. The plan also required the installation of approximately 3.6 acres of an impermeable liner. The cleanup plan was based on more than 1,000 surface and sub-surface soil samples which were analyzed for PCBs and / or other hazardous substances. A separate piece of the cleanup includes active recovery of PCB-contaminated oil from beneath the ground surface. Since 1999 over 36,000 gallons of PCB – contaminated oil have been recovered from beneath Newell Street Area II.

GE began excavating in mid-August and first encountered buried drums on August 19th. To date, over 225 drums, some of which are partial drums or drum pieces, have been encountered. Twenty-one drums were found to contain liquid. Immediately after encountering the first drums, EPA, MADEP and GE began discussing additional steps.

Drums found to contain any amount of liquid are being overpacked, sampled and brought to GE’s drums storage facility before being transported off-site for disposal at a permitted facility. Sampling of the first group of drums containing liquid revealed PCB concentrations as high as 780,000 ppm (parts per million). The remaining drums were transported to GE’s on-site lined landfill for disposal. In addition, numerous small capacitors were uncovered. These capacitors were placed in 55 gallon drums and will be transported off-site for disposal at a permitted facility.

Both GE’s Conceptual and Final Removal Action Work Plan are on EPA’s web site (

GE’s Sept. 6th proposal for geophysical survey and EPA’s conditional approval letter will be added to the website shortly.

Related Information:
Cleanup Process
Cleanup in New England
GE/Housatonic River web site