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

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.

Press release, June 5, 2014; Image: Wikimedia

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