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Housatonic River Cleanup Still On Hold

A citizens group focused on the cleanup of the Housatonic River is meeting in Lenox, Massachusetts, Wednesday night, but a key issue will not be discussed.

Most of the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to remove PCBs from the river is settled — except for the question of where to dispose of toxic waste.

The EPA has proposed shipping sediment containing PCBs to an out-of-state facility. General Electric, which is responsible for the pollution and on the hook for the cleanup costs, wants to dispose the waste near the river.

For more than a year, the issue has been discussed in a confidential mediation.

Dean Tagliaferro, the EPA's project manager for the GE Pittsfield Housatonic River site, said he can't talk about the mediation.

But Tagliaferro said he'll update the citizen's group on flood plain testing, dam inspections and a new kind of sign GE has posted near the river warning people not to eat fish and other animals.

"It includes a plate with a frog on it and a big X across it," said Tagliaferro. "There's some Spanish language on the sign now, as well."

Images of new consumption advisory signs posted along the Housatonic River.
Credit Massachusetts Department of Public Health / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Images of new consumption advisory signs posted along the Housatonic River.

The new signs, developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, have more symbols and fewer words. They also warn against eating ducks, fish and turtles.

Until the issue of where to dispose of the PCBs is settled, excavation of the next section of the river won't begin. 

The EPA Housatonic River Citizens Coordinating Council has 37 members, including representatives from cities and towns near the river. It also includes Native American tribes, Massachusetts and Connecticut environmental agencies, several environmental groups, the EPA and GE.

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