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Local hearings held on hazardous waste regulations

PITTSFIELD — The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held two public hearings last week on a proposed amendment to a regulation regarding hazardous waste facilities. But the public, for the most part, was absent from the hearings.

“I’m sure there would be more people here had it been better publicized because this is a very hot topic in the Berkshires right now,” said Pittsfield resident Valerie Andersen at the second hearing held at the Berkshire Athenaeum last Thursday evening, August 1.

The first hearing was scheduled for earlier that day, at 10am at the Lenox Library. Besides reporters, only three community members were present and no one testified.

A few more folks showed up to the Pittsfield hearing, but the turnout was still considerably low with only four people giving testimony.

“The number of people here is not a reflection of the number of people who are passionate about this subject,” said Barbara Cianfarini of Pittsfield, one of the four who spoke at the hearing. Like Ms. Andersen who spoke before her, she expressed her disappointment that these hearings were not better publicized. A brief article did run in the Berkshire Eagle the day of the hearings, but no other advanced notice was sent out.

The hearings were meant to gather public input on the issue of toxic waste dump siting, an issue that has many local citizens concerned since General Electric (GE) was charged with cleaning up PCBs from the Housatonic River. During the first phase of the cleanup, GE dumped much of the toxic PCB material into two landfill sites, Hill 78 and Building 71, next to the Allendale Elementary School in Pittsfield.

“We have already endured enough toxic waste dumps,” said Ms. Andersen, referencing the dump at Hill 78. A member of the Citizen’s Coordinating Committee for the PCB cleanup, she testified in favor of the Massachusetts DEP proposal, which would prohibit hazardous waste facilities from being located in or near an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

According to the State’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, ACECs are places that receive special recognition due to the quality, uniqueness, and significance of their natural and cultural resources. The Upper Housatonic River, an area of 12,480 acres running through the towns of Lee, Lenox, Pittsfield, and Washington, is one of the thirty ACECs in Massachusetts.

While the solid waste regulation prohibits solid waste facilities from being located in an ACEC, the hazardous waste regulation does not specify that the restriction also applies to hazardous waste facilities. “This regulation change is designed and intended to close that gap,” MassDEP’s Catherine Skiba explained.

All who spoke at the Pittsfield hearing were in favor of the proposed regulatory change to keep toxic waste dumps out of environmentally sensitive areas.

“We are in favor of any kind of regulation that prevents toxic waste dumps of any kind in Berkshire County,” said Mrs. Cianfarini, speaking on behalf of the grassroots group Citizens for PBC Removal.

“We shouldn’t have toxic waste dumps near schools, near rivers, near residential properties, anywhere that’s going to affect our citizens, our children, our future,” added Charlie Cianfarini, co-founder of Citizens for PCB Removal.

Pittsfield resident Mark Miller attended both hearings seeking more information on the topic of PCB removal from the Housatonic and its implications.

“We have not to date gotten an adequate cleanup regime established,” he said. “I think it’s a case of GE having in its own interests wanting to keep its expenses down. But the human interest here is to keep people safe, and to keep land and the Housatonic River as useful as possible in the future.”

Mr. Miller thinks MassDEP’s proposed regulatory revision is a good thing. “My question to myself and of other people who have really educated themselves on these issues,” he added, “is ‘is this adequate, and what can we do at this late date to make it more adequate?’”

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Posted by on August 8, 2013. Filed under Community Events,Community News,News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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