GE contaminated 110 miles of the Housatonic River in Massachusetts and Connecticut with toxic PCBs. A probable human carcinogen, PCBs cause cancer in animals. PCBs affect our reproductive system, thyroid hormone levels, cause neurological and learning deficits, and can affect the skin, eyes, liver and cardiovascular system.
Fish and ducks in the Housatonic have the highest PCB levels ever seen in the United States. PCBs enter the human body when you touch or ingest PCB-contaminated soil, eat PCB-contaminated fish, waterfowl, vegetables, and breathe PCB-contaminated air. According to the World Health Organization: “The ability of PCBs to co-distil, volatilize from landfills into the atmosphere … makes atmospheric transport the primary mode of global distribution. In a study in the USA, 92% of the PCBs detected were in the vapour phase.” As a result, PCB’s are currently found in the body of every human including mother’s milk.
EPA and GE are quarreling over the PCB cleanup of 12.5 miles from Lenox into Connecticut, the Rest of River. The most rigorous cleanup would remove 2,902,000 cubic yards (cy) of contaminated sediment and soil, and remove 94,100 pounds of PCBs.
We respectfully disagree with GE and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ claim that a thorough cleanup will destroy the river. We know from the cleanup of the first two miles, that when most of the PCB contamination is removed, we can restore its most sensitive areas back to health. River systems all over America have been remediated and successfully restored. You can clean a poisoned river without destroying it.
GE has agreed to remove 267,700 cy and 13,900 pounds of PCBs while Massachusetts suggests removing approximately 300,000 cubic yards from Woods Pond.
Even though the EPA has compromised and is ordering GE to remove only a third of what we’d like to see remediated, 990,000 cubic yards and 46,970 pounds of PCB, GE is challenging that order and demanding the right to place contaminated sediment and soil in PCB dumps alongside the River in Lenox, Lee and Housatonic.
According to the Federal Register of July 26, 1982, even the EPA admitted that landfills leak: “A liner is a barrier technology that prevents or greatly restricts migration of liquids into the ground … Eventually liners will either degrade, tear, or crack and will allow liquids to migrate out of the unit.” [pg. 32284]
We believe the simple solution to this problem is to enforce the existing law and do what CERCLA, the Superfund legislation, suggests.
CERCLA Section 9621(b), General rules for cleanup standards:
“(1) Remedial actions in which treatment which permanently and significantly reduces the volume, toxicity, or mobility of the hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants is a principal element, are to be preferred over remedial actions not involving such treatment. The offsite transport and disposal of hazardous substances or contaminated materials without such treatment should be the least favored alternative remedial action where practicable treatment technologies are available.”
When PCB’s are bioremediated lesser amounts of PCBs will need to be removed and shipped out of state.
Please join your friends and neighbors to fight for a fishable, swimmable Housatonic River. . Only large-scale community action and involvement will influence GE and EPA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to protect our human health and our environment.
Waterfowl advisory, Massachusetts Department of Public Health:
(Chapter 5.10 Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Air Quality Guidelines – Second Edition WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2000, Page 1)
“Statement of Basis for EPA’s Proposed Remedial Action for the Housatonic River “Rest of River”
CERCLA, 42 U.S. Code § 9621 – Cleanup standards