Site history: Between 1932 and 1977 General Electric Company
(GE) used Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at its Pittsfield, Massachussetts
facility. PCBs were released into the Housatonic River from the GE facility and
related properties, which comprise the cleanup site.
Location: From the GE facility in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
into Connecticut along the Housatonic River watershed to Long Island Sound.
Case status:NOAA and its co-trustees from USFWS and CT addressed public comments and released a Final Amendment to the Housatonic River Basin Restoration Plan. This Amendment highlights aquatic restoration because the original 2009 Restoration Plan primarily focused on Recreational and Riparian Restoration. The Trustees are preparing to implement the aquatic restoration projects outlined in this final amendment.
Overview: The General Electric (GE) Housatonic River Site is located
in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, extending along the river from the GE facility in
Pittsfield into Connecticut. The cleanup site consists of waste sources at
the GE facility in Pittsfield and other areas in Pittsfield where PCB
wastes from the GE facility have been disposed, as well as sediment
and water contaminated by the migration of PCBs via the Housatonic River. The
presence of PCB contamination in river sediments, soils and groundwater has
been documented through a series of investigations, spanning two
decades, conducted by GE, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental
Protection (MA DEP), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In 1982, the MA DEP
ordered the Housatonic River closed to all but catch and release fishing
from Dalton to the Connecticut border as a result of PCB contamination in river
sediments and fish tissues. PCBs may have reached anadromous fish and estuarine
species well downstream of the cleanup site. In addition, the Massachusetts
Department of Public Health investigated concerns expressed by local residents
regarding possible health effects resulting from exposure to PCB
contamination. The Connecticut Department of Health has fish consumption
advisories along the entire Housatonic River in CT due to body residue PCBs.
In 1997, General Electric, the City of Pittsfield, the United States Government,
the State of Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts entered into
negotiations with the goal of achieving a comprehensive settlement of all
outstanding environmental issues, including remedial action and natural
resource damages. A tentative agreement was reached in September 1998. That
agreement was translated into a Consent Decree, which was approved in October
Pursuant to the requirements of the Consent Decree, General Electric has paid
over $15 million in natural resource damages. This sum has been divided between
Connecticut and Massachusetts so that roughly half of the $15 million will be
available for restoration projects in each state. These funds have been
deposited into interest-bearing accounts held in trust by the Department of the
Interior on behalf of all of the Trustees.
In order to implement natural resource restoration projects in Connecticut, a draft restoration plan (DARP/EA) was developed by the Connecticut SubCouncil (composed of representatives from the State of Connecticut, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA) for the Natural Resource Trustees. In the draft plan, the Trustees presented their evaluation of numerous restoration projects, explaining the rationale behind their preferred restoration alternatives intended to compensate the public for natural resource injuries. In 2009, the Trustees finalized and released the Housatonic River Basin Natural Resource Damages Final Restoration Plan outlining restoration projects that would be undertaken to restore injured resources of the GE Housatonic River Site.
The restoration identified in the 2009 Final Restoration Plan has been funded and is currently being implemented, with the exception of one of the originally selected aquatic projects (Blackberry River Fish Passage Restoration). The remaining settlement funds (and interest earned from the original settlement) were reserved for Aquatic Restoration. In 2013, the Trustees released the Final Amendment to the Restoration Plan which details the preferred aquatic restoration projects and incorporates comments received during the public comment period. More detail on the Amendment is available on the CT DEEP website.