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'More equity and access': Residents ask EPA for hard copies of Housatonic cleanup reports

 A sign in Lee, Massachusetts, warns people not to eat fish, turtles, ducks and frogs from the Housatonic River because they are contaminated with PCBs.
Nancy Eve Cohen
A sign in Lee, Massachusetts, warning people not to eat fish, turtles, ducks and frogs from the Housatonic River because they are contaminated with PCBs.

Some people in the Housatonic River region are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make online documents describing the PCB river cleanup more accessible.

Several people asked for hard copies of lengthy online documents at a Wednesday night meeting of the Citizens Coordinating Council in Lee, Massachusetts.

As General Electric and the EPA get ready to design and build a toxic waste disposal facility in Lee, the agency is releasing GE's pre-design research as PDFs online, including a 3,894-page report.

The agency set an October 9, 2023, deadline for public comment on GE's assessment of the 75-acre site where the PCB dump is expected to be built.

Jim Wilusz, executive director of the Tri-Town Health Department, which serves Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, said he'd like the EPA to make a hard copy available to the public in Lee.

"We all need to do a better job at creating more equity and access to our residents," Wilusz said. "Let us remind each other that Berkshire County is very rural and we still have broadband-access issues."

Kelsey Dumville, senior community involvement coordinator for the EPA, said the agency would look into responding to the request.

Jane Winn from the Berkshire Environmental Action Team said GE should pay for printing copies.

Judy Herkimer, from the Connecticut-based Housatonic Environmental Action League, suggested residents ask the EPA for an extension to the October deadline for public comment.

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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