Berkshire Lawmakers Call On Massachusetts To Join Housatonic River Cleanup Mediation

Sep 12, 2018

The state of Massachusetts is choosing not to be part of a recently-launched mediation on the cleanup of the Housatonic River. But lawmakers from the Berkshires want the state involved.

State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli said Massachusetts has long supported shipping toxic waste dug up from the river to a facility out of state -- something the towns he represents also want.

General Electric, which polluted the Housatoninc River, wants to dispose the waste in the Berkshires.

Pignatelli is surprised the state isn't joining the mediation.

“They have the environmental expertise to understand the implications of mediation and what the towns are going to be up against,” Pignatelli said. “I think they should have a seat at the table. That does disappoint me.”

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier said she was concerned when Governor Charlie Baker gave GE tax breaks a couple of years ago to move its headquarters to Boston. 

“Here’s a matter of a long-term health and safety concern, economic development concern, that we have in Berkshire County, and to have Massachusetts not at the table and without explanation is a problem,” Farley-Bouvier said.

The U.S. EPA and GE are paying for the mediation. They'll take part in it, along with six Berkshire communities, environmental groups, one neighborhood group and the state of Connecticut.

While Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has not explained why the state isn’t joining the mediation, it said it is providing factual and legal support to the U.S. EPA.