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EPA Seeks Public Input on Proposed Cleanup Plan for the Housatonic River “Rest of River” Project

Release Date: 06/05/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

BOSTON – EPA has completed a proposed Cleanup Plan to remove PCB contamination from the “Rest of River” portion of the Housatonic River, and the Agency is seeking public input on the proposal.

The proposed cleanup plan was developed after extensive consultation with Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and Fish and Game (MassDFG) and the Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP). Rest of River is the term used in the 2000 Consent Decree to describe the investigation and decision making process for the 125 mile section of the Housatonic River from the confluence of the East and West Branch downstream into Connecticut.

The plan, if finalized as proposed, would require General Electric Corp. to address polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in river sediment, banks, floodplain soil and biota that pose unacceptable risks to human health and to the environment. EPA estimates that the cleanup would cost an estimated $613 million and would take approximately 13 years to implement.

In addition to addressing risks in the areas slated for cleanup, the proposed plan when fully implemented would reduce downstream transport of PCBs, relax or remove fish consumption advisories, and avoid or minimize harmful impacts to state-listed species and their habitats regulated under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. EPA has proposed an “adaptive management” approach to ensure that the cleanup is performed using the best available technologies and methods. Further, EPA’s proposal calls for contaminated material to be shipped off-site to existing licensed facilities for disposal.

A 45-day public comment period will begin on June 25, 2014 and end on August 8, 2014. In June, EPA will be holding two Public Information Sessions to discuss the proposed cleanup plan plan which includes a draft modification to GE’s Permit for the project and a Statement of Basis explaining EPA’s rationale for the proposed cleanup with the public. Informational meetings will start with poster sessions at 6:00 p.m., during which EPA staff will be available to address specific topics. Following the informal poster sessions, EPA will give a presentation on the proposed cleanup plan at 7:00 p.m., which will be followed by a question and answer period.

Lenox, Mass.
Wed., June 18: 6 pm poster session; 7 pm presentation
Lenox Memorial Middle and High School auditorium
197 East Street, Lenox, Mass.

Kent, Conn.
Tues., June 24: 6 pm poster session; 7 pm presentation
Kent Town Hall, Kent, Conn.

Among other things, EPA’s proposed cleanup plan would utilize a combination of targeted soil and sedi¬ment removal, riverbed capping and monitored natural recovery to address risks posed by PCBs. EPA believes that if enacted, the plan would:

- reduce risks to children and adults from di¬rect contact with soil and sediment;
- reduce soil contamination in the floodplain to levels which allow continued recreational use without unacceptable risk;
- reduce PCB concentrations in fish to levels that allow increased consumption of fish caught from the River in Mass. and Conn., and reduce impact to affected communities relying on the fish for economic considerations or cultural practices;
- reduce the potential movement of PCBs from the river onto the floodplain, from the banks into the River, and from upstream to down¬stream locations, including the downstream transport into Conn.; and
- reduce contamination and risk for fish, wildlife and other organisms in the river, backwaters, floodplain, and vernal pools.

Consistent with actions at other contaminated sediment sites, EPA’s proposal relies on a combination of cleanup approaches that apply to specific “reaches” of the river, as described below:

- Removing and capping PCB-contaminated sediment in some reaches in the Housatonic River.
- Monitoring natural recovery in some reaches in the Housatonic River.
- Removing PCB-contaminated soil from some areas in the 10-year floodplain adjacent to the river, including vernal pools, and restoring affected areas.
- Stabilizing PCB-contaminated erodible river banks that are a source of PCBs that could be transported downstream, focusing on the use of bioengineering techniques in restoring any disturbed banks.
- Transporting and disposing of all excavated contaminated soil and sediment off-site at existing licensed facilities approved to receive such soil and sediment.
- Placing restrictions (Institutional Controls) on eating fish, waterfowl, and other biota where PCB tissue concentrations pose an unacceptable risk unless/until such consumption advisories are no longer needed, as well as restricting other activities that could potentially expose remaining contamination.
- Establishing procedures to address PCB contamination associated with future work.
- Maintaining remedy components and monitoring over the long-term to assess the effectiveness of the cleanup and recovery of the river and floodplain.
- Establishing mechanisms for additional response actions if land uses change (e.g. dam removal, changes in floodplain land use)
- Conducting periodic reviews following the cleanup to evaluate the effectiveness and adequacy of the cleanup in protecting human health and the environment.

More information:

- The proposed cleanup plan which includes a draft modification to GE’s Permit for the project and a Statement of Basis explaining EPA’s rationale for the proposed cleanup can be reviewed at http://www.epa.gov/region1/ge/proposedcleanupplan.html

- Copies of the proposed cleanup plan are available at many town halls in Conn. & Mass. along the Housatonic River, as well as at EPA, MassDEP and CT DEEP offices, and through EPA’s field office in Pittsfield, at the Weston Solutions office at 10 Lyman Street.

- In addition to the public informational sessions, a Public Hearing date will be scheduled where the public will have an opportunity to make oral comments for EPA to consider. Details about how to submit comments will be in the proposed cleanup plan and on the website.

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