EPA To Update Public On Mediation Of Housatonic River Cleanup

Nov 29, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is inviting the public to weigh in on the cleanup of the Housatonic River at a meeting Monday in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The EPA has billed the meeting (PDF) as a chance for the public to get an update on a mediation process that is aimed at settling a dispute over the best way to dispose of toxic PCBs from the river.

General Electric, which polluted the river with PCBs, wants to build disposal sites in the Berkshires.

The EPA wants to ship the waste to a regulated facility out of state.

John Bickerman of Bickerman Dispute Resolution is facilitating the mediation. He said that so far, participants have agreed only to the ground rules regarding confidentiality.

“In addition, there have been some substantive, very preliminary, substantive conversations — just what parties might be willing to do, and where there is potential areas of compromise,” Bickerman said. “But there is no agreement by any party with any other party at this point.”

Alexandra Dunn, the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, said it's important to talk with the public about the mediation early in the process.

“No decisions have been made at this point,” Dunn said. “But we want to be very transparent and share with the public what we’re doing. So that is very clear, and there is no sense that anyone is operating behind a curtain, and non-transparently.”

Dunn said it should be apparent within a few months if those taking part in the mediation will find common ground.

One key party that has decided not to participate in the mediation at this time is the state of Massachusetts. And the Mass DEP is not attending the public meeting.