- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2020

BOSTON (AP) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it has finalized a landmark cleanup plan for the Housatonic River.

The plan spells out the measures General Electric must follow to remove contamination caused by the release of polychlorinated biphenyls into the river. The plan updates the EPA’s 2016 cleanup plan for the river, its floodplains and other surrounding areas.

PCBs were released into the river by Boston-based GE from a Pittsfield plant for decades through the 1970s.

The plan, designed to protect human health and the environment, will also result in more of the contaminated sediment being removed from the river and surrounding areas than was required under the EPA’s previous 2016 decision, according to the agency.

That plan was challenged by critics, including neighboring communities, and ultimately led to the unveiling earlier this year of a new agreement.

GE praised the version of the plan released in February, saying it “makes good on our longstanding commitment to a comprehensive cleanup.”

The final plan requires GE to clean up the contaminated sediment. Materials with the highest concentrations of PCBs will be transported offsite for disposal at existing licensed disposal facilities. The remaining lower-level PCB materials will be consolidated on-site at a location in Lee, Massachusetts.

“EPA is very proud of the hard work and commitment of all stakeholders to achieve a cleaned-up Housatonic River that will remain a scenic and recreational foundation in Berkshire County and Connecticut for generations to come,” EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel said in written statement.

The cleanup will cost about $576 million and will take two to three years for initial design activities and another 13 years to implement.

EPA officials defended the decision to consolidate lower-level PCB materials into a disposal facility to be built in Lee, over the objections of critics. That agency said the plan can be completed safely effectively, while addressing the top risk at the site - PCB contamination in the river and floodplain.

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