The City Council voted to amend the Consent Decree to allow a walking trail around Silver Lake once the cleanup is completed.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city will again amend a 1999 agreement forged with the General Electric in order to approve easements that will allow the final stage of the redevelopment of Silver Lake to include a recreational walking trail.
The City Council on Tuesday approved an order authorizing amendment to the Definitive Economic Development Agreement (DEDA) to allow the city to execute easements on land surrounding the long-troubled body of water.
This land, which was thought at the time of the original agreement to be owned by the city and later discovered not to be, will come under control of the quasi-public Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, enabling it to oversee the final scenic amenity at the conclusion of a multimillion dollar environmental remediation of the lake by the former Pittsfield employer.
The change, which was approved by the PEDA board
in early 2012, will make possible the installation of a 2,000-foot walking trail along the east and north shores, surrounded by 1,000 trees and native wildflowers slated to be planted.
"Because of circumstances and required title work, PEDA stepped up to the plate to take it in order to allow the walkway to take place, the final amenity to the Silver Lake site," PEDA's Executive Director Corydon Thurston told the City Council.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop questioned Thurston and Assistant City Solicitor Darren Lee about what protections the city had from liability in the event of later discovering more environmental problems at the Silver Lake site.
"My concern is we've had other properties that GE has told us are remediated, and then years later we find out there's more remediation needed," said Lothrop, citing examples of Allendale School and Dorothy Amos Park.
Lee said the land around Silver Lake will owned by PEDA, which was formed under the DEDA and Consent Decree
in part to act as landlord and to limit the city's liability on land that could have future challenges.
"One of the main purposes of PEDA is to hold real estate that may have some environmental issues," said Lee.
Additionally, as part of the agreement, there is a $15 million insurance plan that indemnifies the city and PEDA in the event of additional problems discovered at the site in years to come, Thurston said.
"We don't take ownership of this particular piece of property until the EPA and DEP have signed off on the final completion report saying that the shores have been cleaned to their specifications under the Consent Decree," assured Thurston.
Following completion of the remediation, during which the company paid for the removal of 16,500 cubic yards of "hot spot" contaminated soil and installed a sand-based cap along the lake bottom, levels of polychorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are expected to be about 0.38 parts per million in the top foot of soil and 6.63 ppm in the next two feet below.
This diluted amount of remaining contamination is considered well below the EPA's standard of 10-15 ppm outlined in the Consent Decree. Future soil and water sampling will continue, as will air-quality monitoring, though the EPA recently drew anger from local environmental groups for failing to alert the public
when airborne levels exceeded the prescribed 0.10 ppm action level.
"My main concern is just to make sure the citizens of the city are protected not only today but tomorrow in the future, and to make sure that by whatever we're doing tonight by accepting this property, we're not inadvertently creating a liability," Lothrop said,
"I can assure you my board is as concerned about those issues as you are, and they voted unanimously to approve this parcel," Thurston told Lothrop.
The council also voted unanimously, to authorize amendment of the DEDA and grant easements required to install the trail.
James McGrath, the city's parks and open spaces manager, is assisting in the planning specifics of the area, which is slated to be completed this fall.