To David Scribner at The Berkshire Eagle:
"You've got mail!"
/From George S. Wislocki:
In his February 29 column, David Scribner inferred that I resigned from the Housatonic River Initiative because HRI has filed a motion to intervene in the matter of the PCB Consent Decree. Nothing could be further from the truth. I resigned as treasurer of HRI because I want to devote more time to land preservation.
At the time EPA, the Commonwealth and General Electric entered into the Consent Decree, I stated my support for the agreement. I continue to support the agreement today. However, unlike The Berkshire Eagle, I recognize that substantial unanswered questions remain on issues that will haunt the Housatonic River in the years ahead. One such question is what to do with the contaminated spoils that must be removed from the river south of Pittsfield. The agreement sidesteps this critical issue.
I believe the reason for this and other shortcomings rests in the fact that the negotiating partners did not include broader community representation, such as the affected communities that lie south of Pittsfield. With this in mind, I think The Eagle is doing a great disservice when it continually bashes Tim Gray, the HRI and many others for raising questions that could have been addressed earlier had there been broader community representation prior to the signing of this agreement.
With this said, I would urge The Eagle to take the time to read this agreement, think about the agreement and refrain from mindless, blanket support of a document which has any number of problems along side its opportunities.
George S. Wislocki lives in Pittsfield and is president of Berkshire Natural Resources Council.
/From Mickey Friedman:
What's so radical about a better clean-up?
Mr. Scribner's column Notes, Footnotes & Queries appears below following this op-ed piece.
To download the GE Consent Decree and related Cleanup Agreements click here
Mr. Scribner's February 29 column denounces the Housatonic River Initiative (HRI) as a "radical" environmental group and a "small, fanatical association." HRI, he tells us, will be to blame if GE doesn't clean up its PCB contamination.
Clearly, Mr. Scribner doesn't like us. That's his right. But it used to be that journalists would present facts, not confuse personal feelings with political disagreements. The facts are very different.
HRI believes it is a mistake to enlarge a massive toxic waste dump across the street from the Allendale School. HRI believes it is a mistake to cover up massive contamination at the bottom of Silver Lake with 10 inches of sand. HRI believes its a mistake to only clean the top two feet of the Housatonic River and cover up contamination with black plastic. And HRI believes it is a mistake not to completely clean up the contaminated commercial properties on Newell Street. Their land is so polluted these business owners cannot sell their business or get loans to improve their property.
HRI is a very rare association of people who traditionally do not work together. Our members and supporters include former GE workers, residential and commercial property owners in Pittsfield, South County environmentalists and duck hunters and fishermen. There is nothing fanatical about wanting a better clean-up.
We understand that the men and women who work for the US EPA and the Massachusetts DEP believe that their decisions will result in an adequate cleanup. We respectfully disagree. In our Memorandum of Law that we submitted to the federal court, we quote extensively from the Consent Decree and the multi-volume supporting work plans. The questions we raise, and the concerns we express, are based on the actual decisions of the Consent Decree.
David Scribner has clearly not read the Consent Decree and the many volumes of appendices, nor our Memorandum of Law. He prefers personal attack to research and reasoned argument. And that says something about him, not us.
Mickey Friedman lives in Great Barrington and is a founding
member of the Housatonic River Initiative and sits on HRI's board of directors.
The above op-ed piece also appears as a letter to the editor in The
Berkshire Eagle on March 7, 2000, and is reproduced here with permission
of the author. Mickey Friedman is no relation to Benno Friedman who
is also a founding member of HRI and whose own op-ed piece appears on this
The following column was published in The Berkshire Eagle on February 29, 2000 and is reproduced here without permission.
Notes, Footnotes & Queries by David Scribner
Unelected and unappointed, the Housatonic River Initiative, the South County environmental group so radical that even George Wislocki, president of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, has resigned his membership, is seeking to unravel the PCB settlement painstakingly crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, General Electric and a host of government agencies. Curiously, HRI is supported by an EPA grant. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
Should the organization prevail with its intention of bringing back the Superfund process, this small fanatical association will have succeeded in undermining the economic future of Pittsfield and the Berkshires and postponing the cleanup of the river they claim to treasure. The former GE transformer facility will remain a desolate and polluted industrial carcass, PCBs will dwell in people's yards, and river contamination won't be removed for another generation.
That's why, just in case, we're ordering up an ample supply of bumper stickers: "Blame HRI."
David Scribner is editor of The Berkshire Eagle.Notes,
Footnotes & Queries appears regularly in The Berkshire Eagle
and is a column of commentary on Berkshire County life. Mr. Scribner
can be reached at The Berkshire Eagle, (413) 496-6205; by fax, 499-3419;
by mail to P.O. Box 1171, Pittsfield, 01202; or by e-mail to Dscrib@Berkshire.net.