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After staff hears town of Lee's concerns, Warren asks EPA questions on Housatonic cleanup

The Housatonic River in Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
/
NEPM
The Housatonic River in Massachusetts.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote the head of the New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week, asking 10 questions about the cleanup of PCBs from the Housatonic River.

As part of the river cleanup, the EPA issued a permit allowing General Electric, which contaminated the river, to build a disposal site for lower levels of PCB waste in Lee, Massachusetts.

In her letter, Warren asked David Cash, the EPA's regional administrator, to describe any recent conversations the agency has had with towns on the river.

Warren also asked about a previous commitment from the agency to research innovative technologies to clean up PCBs.

In a statement, the EPA said it "shares the Senator’s commitment to working closely with our state and local partners."

The agency said it will respond to Warren's questions by the May 3 deadline she requested in her letter,

The letter from Warren was sent the same day her staff met with town officials from Lee. The officials told the senator's staff there is a potential drinking water aquifer directly under the site of the planned dump.

Lee Selectboard Chair Sean Regnier said in a statement that "he hopes that this was the first of many conversations regarding alternative remediation opportunities and a continued [dialogue] about concerns with the aquifer."

Lee town officials asked Warren for the meeting after she said to NEPM that it was "an insult" to store the waste near the river. Warren had previously supported the EPA's cleanup plan.

The town has been fighting the disposal site on many fronts, including a lawsuit against Bayer, the owner of Monsanto, which manufactured the PCBs that contaminated the Housatonic River.

The company has said the lawsuit is without merit.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.