PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The region's congressional delegation is pushing Environment Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to uphold the EPA's 2016 order that contaminated material in the Housatonic River be "shipped off-site to existing licensed facilities for disposal."
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal have sent a letter to Pruitt calling on him to ensure General Electric lives up to its commitments in the $613 million "Rest of the River" cleanup.
Keeping the contaminated soil and sediment in the county would save GE roughly $250 million.
GE, once a powerhouse in Pittsfield, left behind tons of polychlorinated biphenyls used in its transformer manufacturing between the 1930 and 1970s. The EPA has estimated thatup to 600,000 pounds of toxic PCBs, a suspected carcinogen, are left in the river and pose a threat to the region's health.
Under conditions established in the Consent Decree and in the 2011 Final Removal Design & Action Plan, GE was required to finance the dredging of hundreds of cubic yards of "hot spot" sediment and additional shoreline sediment along Silver Lake in Pittsfield. The company also was ordered to address the estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it discharged into the Hudson River in New York, an effort that's cost $1.7 billion.
The "Rest of River" cleanup plan was initially proposed more than three years ago to address contamination in the Housatonic from Pittsfield through South County. It was vetted by the EPA and the state and was determined to be in the best interest of the people of Western Massachusetts. However, a critical component of the cleanup plan was recently called into question by the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), which instructed the EPA to review requirements involving the location of toxic waste disposal from the clean-up. GE has fought this cleanup and appealed the EPA's Housatonic cleanup decision to the EAB.
"The EPA and Commonwealth have repeatedly stated that the contaminated material must be shipped off-site to existing licensed facilities for disposal -- and there is no such a facility in Massachusetts," wrote the members of congress. "To allow local disposal of GE's toxic waste scraped from the riverbed would be incompatible with Massachusetts state law and a complete disregard of the affected Massachusetts communities who have been plagued with this corporate pollution for far too long."
The EPA's proposal was for GE to remove nearly 1 million cubic yards of contaminated soil from the Housatonic over a period of 13 years. The $613 million plan would clean up 300 acres of the river and wetlands from Pittsfield into Connecticut. According to the plan, the soil would have to be taken to a licensed facility, but none exists in Massachusetts.
"Completing the Housatonic River Project is about protecting our environment and public safety," the letter states. "This is about protecting the health of our families that deserve to be able to fish, hike and play alongside the river and its banks."
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Markey Speaks at Last-Minute Rally in Park Square
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Markey is running for a second full term and has visited the Berkshires several times during the campaign.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Edward Markey drove straight from Washington, D.C., to Pittsfield on Tuesday at the tail end of his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate to condemn the Republican administration and promise better days if Democrats win next week.
"This is the birthplace of freedom, right out here in the Berkshires," he said. "In 1776, they declared independence. ... well, our declaration of independence is on Nov. 3, 2020, from Donald Trump."
He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second full term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
Markey said the Democrats are in a revolution to rid the United States of President Donald Trump by voting for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. By doing this, he said, voters will be protecting health care for hundreds of thousands of Americans with pre-existing conditions, fighting for a livable wage, taking action to save the planet, having a future where where leaders believe in science
The progressive, who is known for proposing the Green New Deal with New York's U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was supported by Mayor Linda Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and City Councilors Patrick Kavey, and Helen Moon.
Tyer said she was notified on Monday evening that Markey would be driving from Washington to Pittsfield for this last-minute rally.
"What we all know is that this election is a train running down the tracks," Tyer said. "And for all of us that share the values that Senator Markey has exhibited in his time in the Senate, is important for us to come and recommit ourselves to all of those values and to stand with him today and with all Democrats who share these values because this election is probably going to be the most important election for many of us in our lifetimes."
On Monday, Markey was at the Capitol to vote against Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed 52-48 by the Senate along party lines, with the exception of GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is in close race for re-election in Maine.
Markey opposed Coney Barrett, saying her appointment puts civil liberties on the chopping block, including marriage freedom, reproductive freedom, and voting rights for already disenfranchised communities. Democrats also believe that she will help gut the Affordable Care Act; the court is expected to hear arguments on its constitutionality on Nov. 10.
Referring to the protection of the Affordable Care Act, Markey got a chuckle from the crowd when he said. "We know that we can have the ACA, we can have the ACB, but we cannot have both, we cannot have the ACA and Amy Coney Barrett at the same time."
"In order to see this future we need to elect Joe Biden and usher in a new wave of diverse progressive leadership," Markey said. "And we need to remove the most racist and incompetent President in American history from the White House."
In a statement on the Senate floor on Monday, Markey said Coney Barrett's philosophy of originalism, which is looking back to what the Founding Fathers meant in 1787, is dangerous for the United States. Originalism is racist, sexist and homophobic, he said, and will lead to the pretense that allows the overriding of Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, Civil Rights and civil liberties that have progressed over generations.
"Yesterday, Trump and his Republican lapdogs steamrolled Amy Coney Barrett onto the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, Republican leadership violated their own rule which was that the Senate would not consider nominations for our Supreme Justice in the last year of a presidential term," Markey said, referring to the Republican-led Senate's refusal to consider President Obama's court choice in 2016. "Hypocrisy is too weak of a word to describe the sham that [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Republicans have made out of this appointment process, any senator so blatantly breaking his or her own word on such a profound appointment is just plain wrong."
He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
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