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EPA says cleanup of toxin-fouled Housatonic River can begin

General Electric had a large plant in Pittsfield that polluted the Housatonic River, seen here, with PCBs. (Joe Difazio for WBUR)
General Electric had a large plant in Pittsfield that polluted the Housatonic River, seen here, with PCBs. (Joe Difazio for WBUR)

General Electric got the green light this week from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start removing contaminated soil from the Housatonic River, two years after the landmark cleanup plan was finalized.

A GE plant in Pittsfield contaminated the river with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, for decades up through the 1970s.

Under the “revised final permit” for the Rest of River project, most of the PCB-tainted soil will be disposed of at a specially designed landfill in Lee, Massachusetts, The Berkshire Eagle reported Tuesday.

The EPA estimates cleanup will take over a decade and cost about $576 million.

Environmental groups have opposed the plan to bury contaminated soil in Lee, but their legal challenge was dismissed last month by the Environmental Appeals Board. The groups said they plan to appeal.

Under the EPA's 2020 plan, around 1 million cubic yards of contaminated soil will be disposed of in Lee. GE was previously required to ship all PCBs removed from the river to facilities outside Massachusetts, the newspaper reported.

The EPA has defended its current plan, saying more contaminated sediment will be removed than was required under the agency's previous proposal.

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