Could The Presidential Election Affect The Housatonic Cleanup?

A sign near the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2009 after a GE/EPA cleanup. (Nancy Eve Cohen/NEPM)

Last month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrapped up a public comment period on its controversial plan to remove toxic PCBs from the Housatonic River. The agency said it hopes to issue its final plan by the end of the year.

That would be before any possible change at the White House.

It can take a long time to figure out how to clean up a river. Throw in two states, five towns, environmentalists with different perspectives, a federal agency bound by laws and red tape, a polluter with lots of lawyers, toxic waste that needs to be put somewhere — and it can take decades.

In the case of the Housatonic River, it’s taken 20 years and counting. But now things may be moving forward.

At an announcement of a mediated agreement to clean up the river, Roger Martella of General Electric said the company — whose Pittsfield plant released PCBs into the Housatonic for decades — would start the design immediately.

“I’m sincere on that,” Martella said. “This is a far better alternative to more years of protracted litigation which would delay the cleanup and extend the uncertainty.”

But some want more time so that the public can influence the cleanup permit.

Read the rest of this story at New England Public Media’s website.