EPA issues final permit decision requiring GE to clean up Housatonic River

March 3, 2022
Cleanup of PCBs expected to cost $576 million and take 13 years for implementation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued its final permit decision obligating the General Electric Company to perform a cleanup of the Rest of River portion of the GE-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site.

"EPA is requiring GE to move forward with the Rest of River cleanup plan documented in the final permit," said EPA regional administrator David W. Cash. "The communities along the Housatonic deserve access to a river free of threats posed by PCBs, and issuing the final permit today is a big step towards that cleanup goal."

The Revised Final Permit is a significant step towards reducing PCBs in and around the river and will reduce risk of human exposure. Some of the goals of this permit include achieving:

  • Reduced risks to children and adults from direct contact with contaminated soil and sediment;
  • Reduced soil contamination in the floodplain allowing recreational and residential use without unacceptable risk, and
  • Reduced PCB concentrations in fish to levels that allow increased consumption of fish caught from the River in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

After a public comment process, EPA issued the Revised Final Permit, outlining the cleanup plan for the Rest of River in Massachusetts and Connecticut, on Dec. 16, 2020. Following that, the Housatonic River Initiative and the Housatonic Environmental Action League petitioned EPA's Environmental Appeals Board for review of the Revised Final Permit.

On February 8, 2022, the Board issued a 122-page decision denying the appeal of the revised permit. The Board denied the appeal in all respects.

EPA recently notified the General Electric Company of the region's final permit decision, and the permit became effective and fully enforceable.

The Revised Final Permit requires GE to clean up contamination in river sediment, banks and floodplain soil that pose unacceptable risks to human health and to the environment. GE will excavate PCB contamination from 45 acres of floodplain and 300 acres of river sediment, resulting in removal of over one-million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated material. Most of the sediment and floodplain cleanup will happen within the first 11 miles of the Rest of River in the City of Pittsfield and the towns of Lee and Lenox. Phasing the work will disperse the effects of the construction activities over time and locations. The excavated material will be disposed of in two ways: materials with the highest concentrations of PCBs will be transported off-site for disposal at existing licensed disposal facilities, and the remaining lower-level PCB materials will be consolidated on-site at a location in Lee. The cleanup is estimated to cost $576 million and will take approximately two to three years for initial design activities and 13 years for implementation.

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