Questions linger over 100 Bridge Street site

Meeting tonight to discuss remediation as downtown development project takes shape

GREAT BARRINGTON — Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in Thursday on the latest effort to clean up a former town industrial site in advance of developing the property for affordable housing.

But concerns over that plan already have begun to bubble up in the community.

More than 50 people showed up to a meeting last week, scheduled to discuss how to best keep the public informed on the plans — but the crowd was eager to wade into the remediation issue itself.

There's a meeting of the Community Development Corp. at 5:30 this evening in the Mason Library Main Reading Room to discuss the remediation.

"There's going to be a flood," said James Slavinski, of North Plain Road, brandishing a tattered copy of The Berkshire Courier newspaper from 1949. "It's not a 100-year flood, there's going to be one soon."

The 8-acre site, which is owned by the Community Development Corp. of the Southern Berkshires, sits on a floodplain adjacent to the Housatonic River to the east end of the downtown business district. The corporation plans to develop the southerly 2 acres for affordable housing, leaving development of the remaining 6 acres for later.

But the site, formerly home of a New England Log Homes factory, is contaminated with dioxins and pentachlorophenol, or PCP,

The Department of Environmental Protection in November rejected the corporation's original remediation plan because it did not clean up the entire site in advance of construction.

In a new plan filed last week, the corporation has described its plan to clean up the entire site by removing contaminated soil from some areas and moving it elsewhere on site. The contaminated soil then will be capped by geotextile netting and a foot of clean soil.

The original plans spurred a group of local activists to file a petition seeking more public involvement in the process.

In response, the corporation produced a Public Involvement Plan to establish how the public will be informed about the remediation of the 100 Bridge St. site.

The first step in that process was last week's meeting, at which Tim Geller, executive director of the organization, explained how the public would be informed going forward. Public comment on the involvement plan will last 20 days, Geller said.

He told the crowd the corporation keeps documents in the common area at Mason Public Library.

But while the meeting was set specifically to discuss the public information process, the crowd kept delving into the remediation plan itself.

Geller agreed to open the floor.

Barbara E. Cianfarini, of the Pittsfield group Citizens for PCB Removal, said she felt that bioremediation for the site, a process that was halted in 2014, was not given a fair shake.

But Geller said while he preferred the procedure, the department had shut the door on that plan completely.

"Bioremediation is not coming back," he said.

Audrey Cole, of the Housatonic Environmental Action League, asked what happens when remediation technology develops to the point that it can solve all the problems on the site.

Geller said the department's regulations ensure that if and when such remediation technologies become available, the corporation will be required to use them.

Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-496-6236 or @BE_EoinHiggins.


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