PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Increased levels of contamination in groundwater near the toxic waste sites near Allendale School have city councilors asking for increased scrutiny.
The City Council accepted a report on Tuesday that calls for another meeting with the state Departments of Environmental Protection and of Public Health, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to the May test results around what is known as Hill 78 and Building 71. The sites are toxic landfills created as part of the General Electric cleanup.
In May, the groundwater test results in two wells were found to be above benchmarks, but not at an actionable level. The wells will be tested again in October. The change in the test results has many members of the City Council asking for increased reporting, monitoring, and meetings with the state and federal officials.
"They haven't been at the table and that needs to happen," said Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi.
According to Health Director Gina Armstrong, the state tests for hazardous chemicals in groundwater and air samples. The increase in findings in the groundwater is above benchmarks, which were set as a guide, but is still in compliance with GE's requirements.
"It is still below the action level," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the wells were specifically drilled for testing and are not linked in any way to the city's drinking water system.
"In no way would it cause an exposure in drinking water," she said.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell said part of the reason for the spikes is that there is no bottom liner at the Hill 78 site so when there is a lot of rain, more chemicals leach out of the bottom.
Nonetheless, none of the councilors are comfortable with seeing a spike.
"We need to have these more often, especially if there are issues," Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said. "There are benchmark levels for a reason."
Nor are residents comfortable with the new readings. Hill 78 has been a concern for years because of its proximity to Allendale School on Connecticut Avenue. Valerie Anderson implored the City Council to push the EPA to have monthly tests, not twice a year.
"This is a health issue for not only the children that go to Allendale School but all of us who live in the City of Pittsfield," she said, urging the council to "be firm" with the EPA.
Anderson is also asking for the air monitoring systems to be move closer to the waste dumps and that the equipment is working properly. DEP had found and repaired a malfunctioning air monitor, but it isn't known how long it had been broken.
Armstrong said there is a meeting scheduled for the 24th with the Citizens Coordinating Committee and representatives from the DEP will be on hand. Armstrong is also now being tasked with scheduling another meeting for the City Council to have questions answered.
She added that the test results in October will be available about a month after and that will shed more light on the elevated levels.
In other business, John Herrera was appointed as the new director of veterans services. He fills the vacancy caused by Jim Clark moving from that role to the director of the Council on Aging.
Herrera comes to the job after five years at Berkshire Community College as the veteran's representative - a job that followed two years as a veteran student liaison enrollment fellow at the college. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1983 until 2009.
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