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Berkshire communities join in PCB cleanup

October 21, 2013

LENOX, Mass. (AP) — Several Berkshire County communities are banding together, figuring there’s strength in numbers when it comes to seeking financial compensation from General Electric Co. for PCB cleanup of the Housatonic River.

Lenox last week joined Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Sheffield in the agreement.

Only Pittsfield’s City Council has yet to approve the agreement, and that’s expected on Tuesday night with the support of Mayor Daniel Bianchi, Nathaniel Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, told The Berkshire Eagle (http://bit.ly/174pbpM ).

Each community is kicking in $10,000 to support the efforts of the Newton-based Pawa Law Group hired to negotiate with GE.

The legal agreement has been two years in the making, Karns said. It focuses on the expected economic disruption to neighborhoods once the cleanup gets underway, as well as projected impacts on businesses, traffic and tourism.

An expensive and lengthy cleanup could affect residential property values, which would impact the communities’ tax bases, he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s delayed initial proposal to remove PCB contamination along a 10-mile stretch of the Housatonic is likely to be challenged by GE and may wind up in court, Karns said.

Release of the proposal is still a possibility by early next year, EPA spokesman Jim Murphy said.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are probable cancer-causing chemicals that GE used at its former power transformer plant in Pittsfield, which closed in 1977.

The agreement will give the six communities a strong voice, with the help of Pawa, and will allow discussions involving both the EPA and GE as the cleanup continues, Bianchi said.

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Information from: The Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle, http://www.berkshireeagle.com

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