The cleanup of Silver Lake is nearly complete; the next phase will landscaping and building a walking trail around the lake.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A federal environmental official gave the city's Board of Health updates Tuesday on recent and upcoming local toxin cleanup efforts, presented in the larger context of remediation efforts by the General Electric over a period spanning nearly a decade and a half.
"There's still a way to go, but there has been a significant amount of removal," said local U.S. Environmental Protection Agency coordinator Dean Tagliaferro.
"Silver Lake should be completed substantially by this year," Tagliaferro told the board.
The lake by the former GE plant is the 18th out of 20 total Removal Action Areas (RAAs) mandated under the federal Consent Decree approved by the U.S. District Court in 2000. The decree, which was co-signed by the corporation, the city of Pittsfield, and federal and state agencies, outlined much but not all of the process required of the company to remediate contaminants it dumped between the 1930s and 1977. In addition to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the manufacturer was required to look at 209 other contaminants
In addition to the Silver Lake cleanup, which is being conducted for GE by Sevenson Environmental Services, another contractor has also been working along New York Avenue to recover 3,500 gallons of oil spilled from a pipeline there, a process the EPA coordinator reported as being "99 percent complete."
Previous major RAA cleanups have gone on since 1999 in Pittsfield, and include Allendale Elementary School, properties along Newell Street, and segments of the Housatonic River from the GE properties to the confluence of river branches at Fred Garner Park.
The next major cleanup project covered under the Consent Decree will be that of nearby Unkamet Brook, slated to take place over the course of two to three years starting in 2014.
"That brook's fairly well contaminated," said Tagliaferro, who added that the cleanup will involve having to reroute the brook, which was artificially routed previously in the 1960s. "That is a fairly major project."
Additional downstream properties will need restorative work done as well, forming the final RAA component enumerated in the Consent Decree. This does not include the much larger Rest of the River cleanup area, a 135-mile stretch of the Housatonic River running from south Pittsfield to Connecticut, with major areas of contamination in Southern Berkshire County.
While the decree does not specify how this southern cleanup will be undertaken
(residents and environmentalists have criticized communications
during the Silver Lake cleanup) it did outline the process the EPA, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the manufacturer will use to decide how this plan will be handled in conjunction with principal stakeholders in the region.
Revisions and back and forth over the emerging plan has gone on for years, and while the EPA recently estimated that the proposed plan would be done by Labor Day, Tagliaferro said they now hope to have a draft in a few more months.
"I don't know when that plan will come out," said Tagliaferro. "Hopefully by the end of this calendar year, we will be able to put forth a proposal."
Another upcoming public comment meeting on GE remediation efforts and the anticipated future Rest of the River plan will be held at the Lenox Library on Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.