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GE-Housatonic River cleanup meeting reflections

In a letter to the editor, Nan Wile writes, "Many of us danced around the block with the board and DEP several years ago, over the fate of a brownfield in downtown Great Barrington, and the decisions were permissive and disappointing."

To the editor:

I was at the GE-Housatonic River cleanup public meeting in Great Barrington. Asked what I thought, I confessed I was insulted by the casual way the word “remediated” was used. From what I could ascertain, reading the agreement and from that evening’s conversation, the negotiators in fact settled for “containment.” It’s very different. Relocating toxic soil and sealing [sic] in polymer wrapping is like sweeping dirt under the carpet: It may be covered up, it may be hidden, but it’s not gone.

It could be. Even though the panel was courteous and respectful to questions, even aggressive challenges, from the audience, EPA’s Bryan Olson responded ingenuously to Tim Gray’s reference of the removal of PCBs in Vietnam. The study is no secret; the thermal-desorption process was implemented and was successful. What do I think? I believe the local panel worked hard and sincerely on behalf of the residents in their negotiations, but I say shame on all of you compromising with “the best as we could hope for.” There is no acceptable compromise on issues of health, and recent studies show encapsulation is not the last option.

Many of us danced around the block with the board and DEP several years ago, over the fate of a brownfield in downtown Great Barrington, and the decisions (by the developer SBCDC and Great Barrington town boards) were permissive and disappointing.

If testimony of the successes of proper remediation is esoteric, it’s because it it’s too often been deemed too costly.

Really, now, is any price too high to pay for the health and well-being of current residents and generations to follow? Please — no. Let’s proceed differently.

Nan Wile
Great Barrington

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