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Pittsfield City Councilors Request Cancer Study In Neighborhood Near PCB Dumps

Officials in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, are asking the state Department of Public Health to do a cancer study in a neighborhood near two General Electric toxic waste disposal sites. 

The sites were approved about 20 years ago as part of a Housatonic River cleanup agreement between General Electric, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city of Pittsfield and the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

One of the PCB disposal sites, Hill 78, abuts the playground of the Allendale Elementary School. A subcommittee of the Pittsfield City Council has asked the state to conduct the study.

Councilor Kevin Morandi, who is a member of the subcommittee and a resident of the Allendale neighborhood, said he has questions he wants a study to answer.

"Is there a connection between the PCB dump being there, and exposing the the school population — the school children and the staff, the neighborhoods around there?" he said. "Why are people getting cancer, and is this the cause of it?" 

The DPH told NEPM it's considering the scope of a study.

In 2007, the agency tested PCB levels in the school and in blood samples of students, teachers and employees. It last assessed health concerns from PCBs in the river in 2008.

The EPA conducts air sampling for PCBs (PDF) on the Allendale Elementary School playground twice a year. General Electric monitors ground water near the two PCB disposal sites in Pittsfield, with oversight from the EPA.

The EPA has approved another PCB disposal site downriver in Lee. The environmental group Housatonic River Initiative said it plans to appeal the EPA's cleanup permit, which includes the disposal site.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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