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US EPA Releases Housatonic River Status Report

A stretch of the Housatonic River under remediation.
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
A stretch of the Housatonic River undergoing remediation

The Housatonic River Status Report released by the US EPA last week comes after extensive meetings with the state governments of Massachusetts and Connecticut. The report outlines goals set by both states and the EPA, but no final cleanup plan has yet been identified.

PCB’s or polychlorinated biphenyls, are any of over 200 different believed to be cancer causing chemicals released into the Housatonic by General Electric in Pittsfield until the 1970s.

EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding says that by having the states in line with the EPA’s cleanup goals, he hopes to see a final proposal in the coming months…  

The potential remedy framework could include removal of 1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment of both the river and surrounding floodplain in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The report also identifies a proposed excavation/dredging and capping method, the minimization of impact on native plants and wildlife including species of special concern identified by the states, to minimize bank erosion, and to take advantage of existing rail infrastructure for the transport of contaminated sediment.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection had previously released its own cleanup report, before engaging in the discussion with Connecticut and the EPA. Commissioner Ken Kimmel said that the collaboration has gotten the parties to a more common place on the plan going forward.

Commissioner Kimmel also acknowledged the fact nearby residents are worried about the impact of any dredging on the area’s economy, which in the Berkshires is defined by a strong tourism industry.

EPA Administrator Curt Spalding says that any PCB removal and remediation techniques used going forward will be adaptive, and could improve as dredging technology and research improves over time.

Spalding also mentioned that he would encourage GE to come forward with any dredging and containment technology going forward.


- Wed. May 23, 2012, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m., Housatonic Valley Regional High School, 246 Warren Turnpike Road, Falls Village, Conn.

Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator U.S. EPA Region 1
Macky McCleary, Deputy Commissioner Conn. Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection

- Thurs. May 24, 2012, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m., Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, 197 East Street, Lenox, Mass.

Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator U.S. EPA Region 1
Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection
Mary Griffin, Commissioner Mass. Dept of Fish and Game

The report can be found here:


Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.