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THE OTHER SIDE: Who you gonna call?

So, when the trucks come rumbling through, who you gonna call? Not the Ghostbusters. As for calling Town Hall and members of your select board, can you really expect those who put you in this position in the first place to actively and effectively get you out of it?

Sometimes it is a really bad idea to look for answers. I was reading a bunch of articles—see below—about the PCB-filled trucks that will be rolling through our streets. Naturally, besides acknowledging the great inconvenience, some folks were also wondering about the possibility of an accident with one of the trucks or, worse, at the massive Upland Disposal Facility in Lee. So I tried to find some relevant information on the EPA website. I found “Planning for Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)-Containing Disaster Debris” from 2011:

In general, emergency responders representing the owner or operator of the PCBs have primary responsibility for the cleanup of PCB spills or other environmental releases. However, in some emergency situations, the local, tribal, state, or federal government may conduct a cleanup of PCBs. The magnitude of the emergency, availability of resources, and other factors may determine which specific entity cleans up the spill or other release. For example, the state may request EPA’s assistance in cleaning up PCB releases under EPA’s authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or other statutes. However, EPA funds a CERCLA cleanup only if the owner is unwilling or unable to do so. EPA may then seek to recover its response costs from the owner after completing the cleanup. During major disasters or emergencies, EPA may be tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to clean up PCBs under the ‘National Response Framework, Emergency Support Function (ESF) #10 – Oil and Hazardous Materials Response.’ Please see EPA’s “Planning for Natural Disaster Debris Guidance” [here] for information on the responsibilities of federal agencies for disaster debris management within a homeland security framework.

So, my question was simple: When the PCB trucks come rolling through your town and something goes wrong, who you gonna call? And what are the chances they will put you on hold?

I went back to “Ghostbusters.” I figured they might have some ideas.

I had forgotten that Bill Murray was a womanizing con man, and that Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis had only the slightest idea about what they were doing, and that Ernie Hudson wasn’t formally trained in the field but was unemployed, needed a job, and now drove the Ghostbustersmobile. I had also forgotten that the film was made in Orwell’s “1984.” Then I realized it was William Atherton, the officious but utterly hapless agent of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who wouldn’t listen to anyone and insisted on releasing the large collection of captured ghosts and demonic spirits from the Ghostbusters containment chamber upon the completely unprepared citizens of New York City. And yet, for all their faults and against all odds, it was indeed the Ghostbusters who decontaminated Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver and saved the day:

If there’s somethin’ strange in the neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
There’s somethin’ weird and it don’t look good
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters) …

I can’t hear you …
Who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Louder (ghostbusters)
Who you gonna call (ghostbusters)
Who you can call (ghostbusters) …

(“Ghostbusters” lyrics by Ray Parker Jr.)

As for us today in southern Berkshire County, if only we were talking about ghosts and not PCBs.

It is always interesting to me how when the most likely unfortunate thing to happen actually happens, those who made it happen seem shocked. Often acting as if, like the rest of us, they are a victim too—of fate or divine intervention, or just plain bad luck. And they are never willing to admit to having actively participated in the decision-making that helped to make the unfortunate event happen. That is what is going on now as local politicians and former members of the Rest of the River Municipal Committee begin to realize their constituents aren’t thrilled that GE will be sending thousands of PCB truck loads through their communities on their way from the Housatonic River to GE’s massive PCB landfill in Lee, Mass. — the poetically named Upland Disposal Facility (UDF).

These decision-makers are disappointed that GE continues to say yes to using trucks and no to using rail.

Shocking. Who could have imagined such a thing? Well, just about anybody who has spent the last few decades forcing GE to do what they so vigorously didn’t want to do: cleaning up contaminated homes, a children’s playground, the Allendale Elementary School, and the first two miles of the Housatonic River. Obviously, it is not the members of the Rest of River Municipal Committee; they allowed GE and the EPA to leave significant amounts of PCB-contaminated bank soils and sediments in the river. Obviously, it is not those members of the select boards in Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lee, and Lenox who ratified the final agreement and allowed the EPA to renege on its own scientific analysis, and at the same time contradicted their own previous declarations in support of an off-site PCB landfill.

Yes, the EPA’s 2014 proposal, “The Comparative Analysis of Remedial Alternatives for the General Electric (GE)-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Project Rest of River,” unambiguously called for transporting all PCB-contaminated soils and sediments to a federally regulated off-site PCB landfill. That proposal made clear that, after examining and comparing different approaches to the cleanup and disposal/transportation (TD) options for the contaminated soil and sediment, the EPA favored the following:

Excerpt from “The Comparative Analysis of Remedial Alternatives for the General Electric (GE)-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Project Rest of River.” (Highlighting added.)

The EPA argued that GE’s proposed site for UDF was: “In close proximity to, a state-designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).” It also argued:

[The Lee UDF wouldn’t] meet the requirements of 310 CMR 30.708 or the site suitability criteria in the Commonwealth’s Site Assignment Regulations for Solid Waste Facilities, 310 CMR 16.40(3)(4), which prohibit hazardous waste and solid waste facilities in an ACEC, or adjacent to or in close proximity to an ACEC such that it would fail to protect the outstanding resources of an ACEC.” And wouldn’t “meet the Massachusetts Hazardous Waste Facility Site Safety Council Regulations (990 CMR 5.04), which provide criteria for evaluation of a notice of intent for siting a hazardous waste facility, including that it is not within an ACEC. (Emphasis added.)

The EPA could not have been more clear:

The EPA’s June 2014 “Statement of Basis for EPA’s Proposed Remedial Action for the Housatonic River ‘Rest of River.'” Highlighting added.

The EPA believed that a PCB landfill in Lee near an aquifer and on geologically suspect land was a really bad idea. But, somewhere along the way, the EPA and the Commonwealth replaced science and their duty to protect public health and the environment with political compromise.

The EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) asked for additional information and a more compelling analysis that would justify the EPA’s determination that the Lee UDF would fail to meet the federal TSCA standards for siting toxic-waste landfills. But the EPA chose not to make the case, nor did the Rest of the River Committee — or Sheffield, Great Barrington. Stockbridge, Lee, or Lenox. In fact, there was clear and available evidence to back up that conclusion.

It was only the Housatonic River Initiative (HRI) and the Housatonic Environmental Action League (HEAL) who offered evidence that the Lee UDF site was completely inappropriate. Here is the analysis from Dr. David DeSimone, a former professor of geology at Williams College, that HRI and HEAL submitted to the EAB:

“Geological Evaluation of the Proposed Woods Pond Landfill Site, Lee, MA.” Highlighting added.

The EAB wasn’t interested. You can compare Dr. DeSimone’s analysis with the actual TSCA requirements for siting a chemical-waste landfill:

TSCA regulations regarding chemical-waste landfills. Highlighting added.

Regrettably, the Rest of River Municipal Committee and the river communities squandered their influence and power to pressure the EPA to re-embrace the science-based analysis that previously led them to require off-site landfilling. Instead, they opted to embrace the EPA and Commonwealth’s decision to compromise and, in the process, helped GE to once again put profit over the public health and the environment—and to enable GE to once again out-negotiate them all.

The Rest of the River Municipal Committee and the towns subsequently attacked HRI and HEAL, the only groups steadfastly trying to hold the EPA to its past analysis. They then doubled-down by opposing their intervention in court.

So, here we are, as their constituents are now discovering the consequences of their willingness to site a massive PCB landfill near an aquifer in Lee rather than fight for off-site landfilling. Endorsing a plan that will save GE the $200 million it would have cost them to ship its PCB waste offsite. Guaranteeing that the people of Lee will be burdened for generations to come with a massive toxic waste dump. Ensuring that residents of South County towns will have to live for years with trucks loaded with PCB-contaminated soils and sediments traveling through their streets from the river to Lee.

Quite the victory for the people of South County.

So, when the trucks come rumbling through, who you gonna call? Not the Ghostbusters. As for calling Town Hall and members of your select board, can you really expect those who put you in this position in the first place to actively and effectively get you out of it?

There are so many ways to say it: the contaminated chickens coming home to roost, or the toxic sh*t hitting the fan, or just plain karma. I will admit that it is quite likely that, until the trucks start rolling, most Berkshire County residents won’t even realize that the people of Lee were betrayed. Until the trucks come, they might very well be satisfied with their share of the $62 million that GE paid to cement the deal. And, for the moment, combined with the cash, there is still the great relief that it is Lee—and not Sheffield or Great Barrington or Stockbridge or Lenox—that got stuck with the massive dump.

But I believe, in the long run, there is always a cost that comes with compromising with a corporation that, with such great ease and no apparent regret, poisoned its workers, dumped its contamination in every available hole it could, then allowed an underground lake of toxic chemicals to contaminate one of New England’s most beautiful rivers.

As for the karma in this case, whatever short-term relief that has been won by negotiating a settlement that spared four towns a dump and saddled only the fifth must be balanced with the reality that rather than removing massive amounts of toxic PCBs from Berkshire County, they are staying here and presenting, as Dr. David Carpenter has shown, a continuing threat to all as the PCBs volatilize and spread through the air. Then there are the possible truck accidents. And, the worst case scenario, all it would take is one totally unexpected large scale extreme weather event, a tornado like that which swept through Great Barrington in 1995, pummeling and dismantling GE’s well-planned UDF. And the PCBs there will be spread once again up and down the river corridor.

On November 17, 2023, Leslee Bassman, in an article for The Berkshire Edge titled “Lenox residents plead with Select Board to join Rest of River towns opposing truck transportation,” offered an indication that local residents are now becoming aware of what the deal will mean for them:

Officials say that joint conversations with Great Barrington, Lee, Sheffield, and Stockbridge have already begun …

With nearly 35 residents packing Town Hall on November 15, the Select Board appeared taken by surprise by the large turnout for such a brief agenda. However, the group wasn’t there to comment on the annual tax classification hearing, but to push the dais to promote unity and solidarity with the four other towns affected by the Rest of River cleanup of the Housatonic River and oppose the construction of a toxic waste facility in Lee or, at least, the use of trucks to transport the waste from the waterway.

‘We come with a very respectful voice but an intense opposition to the UDF (Upland Disposal Facility), or the toxic waste dump,’ said Lenox resident Marie Field. ‘We are here to implore you guys, as our town leaders, to work with [the town of] Lee for the purpose of seeking a better solution.’ …

According to EPA officials, the remediation plan is now in its implementation phase. On October 31, GE released its transportation plan for the PCB-laden soil and sediment, with that plan showing that the products would be mostly moved by trucks and, to a lesser degree, by hydraulic measures. However, during its recent meeting, the Tri-Town Boards of Health, representing Lee, Lenox, and Sheffield, voiced strong support for rail transportation as being safer and less of an infringement on residents.

Two weeks later, The Berkshire Eagle reported, “Sparks fly as Lenox residents demand town leaders push for rail transport on Rest of River cleanup.” Clarence Fanto wrote:

Town Hall leaders remain committed to a five-town push for rail — rather than truck — transport of toxic material dredged from the Housatonic River during the EPA-GE Rest of River project.

But during a testy and at times combative public comment exchange at Wednesday’s Select Board meeting, several residents contended members were not doing enough.

And some argued the board did too much in supporting the 2020 Rest of River settlement agreement that set in motion the 13-year project to remove probable cancer-causing PCBs along a stretch of river from the southeast Pittsfield to the north end of Great Barrington.

According to Fanto:

[Select Board Chair Edward Lane] urged anyone who attended Tuesday’s meeting to write letters themselves favoring the rail option — ‘I hope they get 500 letters stating that,’ he said.

Select Board member Marybeth Mitts said town leadership has drafted a response to the GE proposal. Any Lenox citizens can offer their comments to R1Housatonic@epa.gov by the Feb. 1 deadline for reaction.

Lane pointed out that Town Manager Christopher Ketchen contacted the other towns involved in the GE work plan — Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Sheffield — the day after the company released its transport proposal on Oct. 31 …

Resident Matthew Reddick accused the Lenox board of ‘not being straightforward, not being blunt about the situation.’ He demanded to know which members had signed the 2020 Rest of River settlement agreement between the five towns, the EPA and GE.

‘What would have happened if you didn’t sign it?’ he asked the board members serving at the time who signed the document.

‘There would not have been an agreement,’ Mitts responded.

‘We would have been at the mercy of GE and EPA to figure out what to do, instead of us having input,’ Lane added. ‘It was the best we could get.’

As for GE, the Eagle tells us:

In a presentation, GE project coordinator Andy Silfer said trucks would give the cleanup more flexibility than rail — which he said is typically a long-haul option. Rail would put transportation at the mercy of rail logistics, which could result in delays, he said.

Silfer presented estimated truck trip figures and maps with routes … In total, he estimated that the project would remove 590,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, requiring 55,300 truck trips — an average of 47 per day. He noted that some reaches of the river would likely require more trips than others, and held out the possibility that hydraulic siphoning of tainted sediment from Woods Pond would reduce truck trips in that reach of the cleanup …

Comments opposed to the plan also came from residents of other Rest of River towns and included Great Barrington Select Board Vice Chair Leigh Davis and Stockbridge Select Board member Patrick White.

Bill Matthews of Lee was among those questioning the potential impact on traffic and pedestrian safety.

‘I count 19 crosswalks between Joe’s Diner and the Mass Pike,’ he said. ‘If running trucks down main street is any part of this plan I would ask “Are we OK with this folly?”’

Leslee Bassman of The Berkshire Edge noted that Dr. Charles Kenny, who heads up the Tri-Town Board of Health wasn’t satisfied:

‘I am very disappointed with this presentation,’ Kenny said to applause. Calling the presentation ‘inadequate’ and ‘seriously misleading,’ he said GE’s transportation proposal doesn’t put forth measures to maximize the material to be transported off site by rail as required by the 2020 permit, including evaluating adding new rail sidings to make rail transport viable. ‘The consideration that new rail staging could be constructed is not in this proposal at all,’ Kenny said.

Additionally, according to Kenny, transporting the PCB toxic waste by rail to the local UDF has not been investigated as other methods of transportation have. He touted that the EPA should consider the use of rail for local transport to the UDF and study the impact of the proposed truck routes on citizens’ health, including children.

At the meeting, residents voiced concern over whether the transported materials would be dry, thereby making it easier for the PCBs to become airborne, while others identified GE’s transportation approach as ‘a dinosaur’ for such an innovative technology company. Stockbridge resident Denny Alsop discussed a petition that now amasses 2,000 signatures, including those of high-profile citizens and government officials, calling for a thorough public discussion of the use of rail as a transportation option.

GE’s anticipated travel routes for on-site disposal for work in Reaches 7 and 8.

Four days later, according to The Berkshire Eagle, some Great Barrington political leaders weighed in.

There are two ways General Electric Co. plans to haul PCB-laden river waste from Great Barrington to its landfill in Lee.

First through the village of Housatonic, then moving through the centers of Lenox or Stockbridge.

More than two dozen dump trucks per day, on average, for roughly three years, according to GE’s plan.

Now residents and officials in Great Barrington are joining those in other affected towns in pushing for the waste to be carted to the landfill by rail instead.

GE says that rail transport would increase the truck trips to an average of 58 per day since it would have to deliver the waste from the river to rail sidings — something one Housatonic Railroad Co. official slammed last week as a ‘dishonest’ claim. But it has not completely ruled out the use of rail for hauling higher concentrations of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, to out-of-state facilities.

In addition to wear and tear on roads, residents and town officials are worried about any feared seepage of PCBs, a suspected carcinogen, as the trucks move through small Berkshire towns.

In Great Barrington, Select Board Vice Chair Leigh Davis said at the board’s Monday meeting that this is not just a Lee and Lenox problem.

‘What I would like to see is that Great Barrington pay attention to this and join the other towns, and show a united front against the use of trucks for transportation,’ Davis said, noting that she had attended GE’s presentation last week at Lee High School about its transport plans released Oct. 31. She later told The Eagle she attended as a concerned resident but not on behalf of the entire board.

Davis noted that the window for public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency is open until Feb. 1 …

And Davis told The Eagle that she isn’t sure she believes GE’s claim that using rail would double truck trips.

The Eagle points out that this portion of the river cleanup won’t begin for a decade, but when it does:

From Housatonic, there are two ways the trucks might follow en route to the landfill in Lee: From Front Street near Rising Pond in Great Barrington the trucks would head north on 183, through Housatonic village, past the hamlet of Glendale and continuing on past downtown Lenox on Walker Street. On the way to Lenox the trucks would pass by the Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge Bowl, Berkshire Country Day School and Morris Elementary School, as well as Tanglewood.

Or:

If the trucks take the route through Stockbridge, they would also go north on Route 183 then cut east to Route 102 through the center of Stockbridge and past The Red Lion Inn on the way to Route 7 heading north.

There has been a lot of talk about democracy this upcoming election season. But democracy is not just a national issue. It is local as well.

In the case of the Housatonic River and PCBs and the Lee UDF, we are dealing with a pretty clear example of how a few folks appointed by another group together decided they knew best. Convinced they knew best how to negotiate with the EPA and GE, they didn’t ask you what you thought.

I wasn’t in the room, so I am guessing that, along the way, the EPA told them that because there was no practical way to treat the PCB contamination, burying the waste in a landfill was necessary. Then GE told them that, without a negotiated settlement, they were prepared to sue and delay the cleanup another 10 or 20 years. And the EPA and GE probably together made the case that folks like the Housatonic River Initiative were completely unrealistic when they asked for a fishable, swimmable river, and for treating the PCBs instead of landfilling them. They made the case that nowhere in the foreseeable future would any of that ever happen.

I expect that, just to make the Rest of the River Municipal Committee feel like they were tough and successful negotiators, GE agreed to clean some more of their PCBs — and in return for the dump they shouldn’t even have been allowed to build in the first place, adding a payment of $62 million for the towns willing to sign a deal. As for cleaning those extra PCBs, well, the fact is the EPA should have forced GE to clean them up from the get go.

Of course, if the Rest of the River Municipal Committee had actually had experience on the front lines dealing with GE and the EPA since 1990, they would have known that our EPA Region One has allowed GE time and again to submit substandard analyses of remedial technologies, always finding fault with and discounting them. You can read my extended discussion of those GE studies here.

Unfortunately, the EPA always deferred to GE’s false narratives. Then, finally, after years of requests from Housatonic River Initiative for a legitimate test of remedial technologies, Region One Administrator Mindy Lubber promised in 2000 to conduct a series of pilot tests on Housatonic soils and sediments. Quickly thereafter, she moved on, and the EPA has continually refused to honor the agreement and conduct those tests.

You might ask your select boards why they haven’t asked to meet with or request that the EPA meet with James Gilligan of Terra Therm. Terra Therm recently completed the successful cleanup and treatment of contaminated dioxin at the Danang airfield for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Gilligan believes his technology is well suited for the Housatonic’s contaminated sediment.

Of course, GE doesn’t want a legitimate transparent pilot test because they are well aware treatment will cost more than landfilling. Those who know the history of GE and PCBs in Berkshire County are aware that, many years ago, GE chose to use Maxymillian Technology’s portable Thermal Desorption unit at the Balance Rock Superfund Site in Lanesborough to successfully treat the PCB-contaminated soil that was dumped there by GE. Yes, it was a far smaller quantity than what GE will be dealing with in the river, but there have been major improvements over the years in the technology, especially with Terra Therm. You can see how their technology works here and here.

Illustration of how vapor from heated PCB-contaminated sediment travels through the IPTD Thermal Desorption Unit to be collected at the Treatment Building. Image courtesy of USAID.

The Ghostbusters are as old and tired as I am. Fighting evil spirits and out-of-control, profit-driven corporate behemoths takes a lot out of you. But I still have a few ideas.

It’s time for the Truckbusters. Ordinary concerned citizens who don’t want GE’s PCB-contamination driving through their local streets and already overburdened narrow highways. The town of Lee has taken the first critical step. They and the Tri-Town Board of Health have passionately advocated for the use of the railroad. Even more importantly, Lee is planning to sue the Monsanto Corporation — the company that manufactured the PCBs in the first place — claiming that Monsanto was well aware that their chemicals were toxic and were poisoning their workers and, when they leaked from their factories, poisoning fish, shrimp, and birds.

On January 5, 2024, Leslee Bassman reported for The Berkshire Edge:

The Lee Select Board signed off on a letter on Tuesday, January 2, directed to various national and state officials, including President Joe Biden, alleging that an improper relationship existed between General Electric Company and Monsanto Company; specifically, the two companies agreed to absolve Monsanto from potential liability for contamination caused by the use of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the now-banned chemicals, which it produced and GE used in the production of its electrical equipment.

A 2020 remediation plan involving Lee and four other Berkshire County towns as well as GE and the Environmental Protection Agency, was drafted to clean up the Housatonic River following years of GE depositing PCBs into the waterway, a plan that includes the creation of an Upland Disposal Facility (UDF) in Lee to accept the lower-level contaminated sediment while the more toxic materials are sent out of the area. Lee officials and residents have long objected to the plan and the presence of a UDF within the town’s borders, with the permit executed by former Select Board members in private.

Select Board Chair Robert ‘Bob’ Jones read the letter out loud at the meeting, referencing documents that were recently received by the group ‘that are cause for great concern.’

‘Namely, the attached documents show that GE signed an agreement releasing Monsanto of liability for PCB contamination,’ he said, adding that the agreement was not disclosed to the EPA or to the First Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed the 2020 permit following a lawsuit challenging the permit’s legality.

As read by Jones, the letter states that the EPA failed to ‘adequately investigate’ this relationship between the two companies. Additionally, he said the Board has received internal Monsanto documents showing a ‘cancer index’ outlining each employee diagnosed with the disease and dating back to 1949, more than two decades before the alleged 1971 GE-Monsanto release was executed.

Here are links to the documents:

As I explained in a recent column, “THE OTHER SIDE: Sue Monsanto, save Lee — a modest proposal (Part Three),” Lee contends that the recently negotiated cleanup settlement was flawed by the fact that GE failed to acknowledge that they had signed an indemnification agreement with Monsanto, precluding them from legal action against them. In fact, a strong legal case can be made by GE that Monsanto, based on its real-life experience in the Escambia River, withheld critical knowledge that their PCBs, once they left the factory, attached themselves to soil and sediment and, rather than be washed out to sea, remained to contaminate living things that came in contact with them. Barring such an agreement, GE could rightfully sue Monsanto to reclaim much of the money GE had to already and will have to spend in the future to clean the river. Such funds could then be used to pay for shipping the PCB waste out of state.

As for Massachusetts, several states have successfully sued Monsanto because their PCBs have contaminated their waterways, endangering public health and the environment. A successful Massachusetts suit could provide money that we could use to transport PCB-contaminated soil and sediment out of state.

Much of Vermont’s claims in their legal action against Monsanto mirror our own experience:

Defendants or their predecessors intentionally designed, manufactured, distributed, marketed, and sold PCBs and PCB-containing products with the knowledge that they inevitably and foreseeably caused or created environmental contamination, indoor air contamination, property damage, and unreasonable health risks when used as intended …

Defendants’ or their predecessors’ conduct causes and continues to cause harm to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer damage from Defendants’ PCBs and PCB-containing products. This harm is severe and greater than Plaintiff should be required to bear without compensation …

Defendants are under a continuing duty to act to correct and remediate the injuries their conduct, or that of their predecessors, has introduced, and to warn Plaintiff and the public about the human health risks posed by their PCBs and PCB-containing products, and each day on which they fail to do so constitutes a new injury to Plaintiff.

Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell should follow the lead of Vermont. We in Berkshire County have lived too long with Monsanto’s and GE’s PCBs. Our public health and our environment have suffered greatly.

Meanwhile, as GE saves $200 million in transportation costs, we will continue to live with their PCBs. And the citizens of Lee will be forced to host the UDF, a massive PCB landfill. In addition to the ongoing public nuisance posed by the constant volatilization of the remaining PCBs, with GE’s insistence on transporting PCB-contaminated soils and sediments through our towns and city streets by truck, we will have to endure a continuing public nuisance.

I ended my column by urging Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell to Sue Monsanto and Save Lee.

In my experience, the only time GE did the right thing was when thousands of people in Berkshire County organized and pressured the EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to use our federal and state laws against them.

My point is that the answer to who you gonna call is you and your friends and your neighbors and those folks in nearby towns who, just like you, want GE’s and Monsanto’s PCBs gone from Berkshire County. Call and then organize.

Residents of Longview Terrace whose homes were contaminated by GE’s PCBs demonstrating for increased testing and a prompt and thorough cleanup. Image courtesy of Mickey Friedman.

And, in my experience, it takes demonstrations like those waged by the folks in Pittsfield who discovered that their front and back yards were contaminated with hundreds, even thousands, of times the acceptable Massachusetts residential levels of PCBs. And they took to the streets, packed Pittsfield City Council meetings, flooded EPA and DEP meetings, and stood with signs on North Street.

Lee is already doing the hardest work. But imagine citizens of Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lee, and Lenox with signs at every town hall and major intersections saying, “Sue Monsanto, Save Lee. PCBs Out of State.” And, of course, some signs saying, “Who You Gonna Call? Truckbusters!”

Now this is off the top of my head, and I am sure a meeting of your local Truckbusters group can come up with a better online petition to the attorney general:

To Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell,

We, the undersigned citizens of Berkshire County, Mass. know there is no safe level of PCBs. For too many decades we have breathed in GE’s and Monsanto’s PCBs. The recent secret agreement to clean the Housatonic River will leave too many PCBs in the bank soil and river sediment. And we will all have to live with too many more years of thousands of PCB-filled trucks rolling through our communities to an unnecessary massive dump in Lee, Mass., next to Lee’s aquifer and on geologically suspect land in the midst of a Massachusetts ACEC.

We urge you to join the townspeople of Lee and sue Monsanto. Save Lee. And save us and our environment from more unnecessary exposure to PCBs. Put GE’s and Monsanto’s PCBs on rail cars and send them to a federally mandated TSCA toxic-waste site.

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