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Pittsfield has received funding to remove the 200-year-old Bel Air dam on Wahconah Street.
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Officials fear that if the infrastructure collapses, it could cause loss of life and damage downstream buildings and roadways.
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DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo, EEA Secretary Rebecca Tepper and Fish & Game Commissioner Tom O'Shea spoke about the environmental and health challenges of climate change.

Pittsfield Receives $20M For Bel Air Dam Removal

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Taper, left, was in Pittsfield on Friday to announce the ARPA funding with Mayor Linda Tyer. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city will use $20 million in state American Rescue Plan Act funds to remove the deteriorating Bel Air dam.

On Friday, members of the Healey-Driscoll administration celebrated the investment of $25 million in ARPA funding — most of it going to Pittsfield — to remove eight abandoned, hazardous dams in the commonwealth.

"We continue to see more and more frequent severe storms, especially here in Western Massachusetts. This year we've seen record rainfall and flooding. This is a reminder of how critical it is that we invest in addressing our dam infrastructure," Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper said.

"Governor Healey often says the climate crisis is both our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity. Well, we have an opportunity here today with this funding to remove unnecessary and abandoned dams and make our rivers more resilient and our communities safe. Removal of these eight dams is a tremendous example of how we can increase climate resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change all while improving habitat, water quality, and biodiversity."

A collapsed bridge and danger sign are seen above the Wahconah Street dam that was built two centuries ago. If the infrastructure collapses, it could cause loss of life and damage downstream buildings and roadways.

It has been an area of concern for over a decade, with the city and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation conducting inspections, maintenance and repairs. In 2020, it was identified as a high-priority project.

Mayor Linda Tyer said storm events are delivering higher volumes of precipitation that are putting significant pressure on dams, culverts, and other drainage infrastructure and the city wants to prevent negative impacts.

"As a city, we have been actively working to take steps in managing similar dam removal projects and other types of infrastructure projects. We recently completed the removal of the Mill Street dam, which was a massive project but a successful one," she said.

"So both of these projects are representing a significant step toward improving environmental quality through our community, but especially creating greater resiliency in Pittsfield environmental justice neighborhoods."


The dam's high price tag is related to its deterioration, contamination, and size. With permitting, the project will be a multi-year process.

DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo said his department is at the nexus of the climate crisis, economic opportunity, public health, and equity.

"And as we focus on those four pillars, it really gives us a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality of life of our residents," he said.

"These projects are a terrific example of doing just that by ensuring the safety of our environmental justice communities, improving our climate resilience, restoring natural environments, and improving water quality and biodiversity."

He explained that if the dam were to fail, it could also expose residents to contained sediment, adding that "this is life-saving for the community."

Fish and Game Commissioner Tom O'Shea explained that these projects are critical for restoring habitat for fish and wildlife, increasing biodiversity, water quality, and flow while providing benefits for public safety and resilience.

"We really think that moving aging dams is common sense to the challenges given that they have so many long-term maintenance costs," he said.

"Liability, flooding, water quality, and climate adaptation challenges."

There will be a community meeting for the removal of the dam on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. at the Polish Falcon Club so that the public can hear details of the project.


Tags: ARPA,   dam removal,   state officials,   

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Second Chance Composting Comes to Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Second Chance Composting has recently brought their Residential Community Composting Program to Pittsfield.  
 
Memberships are open and ongoing for the 9 South Atlantic Avenue drop off location.  The program runs continuously all year, through all 4 seasons.
 
Memberships start at $9.99 per month, offering unlimited drop off of household food scraps to the location each month.  Members save their food scraps at home, and at their convenience, bring them to 9 South Atlantic Avenue and drop their material into the tote.  Members can come as little or as often as needed each month.  Any and all food and food scraps are accepted, including meat, fish, dairy, bones, and shells.  There are also other membership pricing options available for those who wish to receive finished compost back.
 
In addition to the new Pittsfield location, Second Chance Composting currently has drop off locations in North Adams, Williamstown, and Adams, which have continuous and ongoing membership signups.
 
Second Chance Composting picks up the material every week and it is brought to their MassDEP certified facility in Cheshire to process the food scraps into compost, which is then distributed back to the community to grow more food, flowers, plants, and trees.
 
Those interested in learning more or signing up for a membership can do so by visiting www.secondchancecomposting.com
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