THE MUNICIPAL CAMPAIGN WILL BE COMING OUT OF ITS COMA, AND THE ELECTORATE WANTS SPECIFIC POSITIONS ON A FEW HOT ISSUES, INCLUDING WHAT TO DO ABOUT GE’S POISONOUS PILLAGING OF PITTSFIELD, OR WHITHER AND WITHER, SILVER LAKE?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, AUG. 23, 2011) — There are several issues that must become pandemic and ongoing to Pittsfield’s Campaign 2011. These include:
* Mandatory, random, and unconditional drug testing for all public employees, accepted as a requirement for employment, with no grandfathering.
* Adjusting the taxapayer’s share of paying for health insurance for municipal workers, which now stands at 85%. Employees pay 15%. Most companies in the Dreaded Private Sector either provide no contribution or percentages that usually top out at 50 or 60%.
* Addressing the looming problem of unfunded liabilities taxpayers must bear related to benefits of public employees (for example, healthcare, pensions, and other bennies not in these two categories). According to state data published in THE PLANET on Feb. 25 and March 1, the current outstanding liability for public employee benefits is $330,000,000. That’s not a typo: three hundred and thirty million dollars) [WEBMASTER’S NOTE: These stories are available in THE PLANET’s Archives. To access Archives, go to this site’s home page and put your mouse on the word BLOG in the black toolbar near the top. You will see then see the word “Archive” in the yellow bar directly underneath. Click on “Archive” to get past issues of THE PLANET).
* The issue of the poisonous pillaging of Pittsfield by General Electric Company, the firm that left the vast majority of its witch’s brew of toxicity in Pittsfield’s air, water, and soil after it bolted and took 14,000 jobs with it.
The electorate wants to know and demands to know: Where do ALL of the candidates stand on these questions.
At Issue: What to Do About GE’s Poisonous Pillage of Pittsfield?
Today, we revisit PCB and other GE poisons. For additional information, you can visit THE PLANET archives, March 10, 11, and 14, in which we brought this issue preliminarily to the fore. THE PLANET reasserts its position here and now, that Pittsfield’s only hope of sustained economic development and of luring new manufacturing jobs lies in once and for all addressing this problem.
Until the problem of Pittsfield toxic environment is addressed, the perception remains with the rest of the world that Pittsfield, once a great place to do business, is now radioactive and to be avoided. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.
The fight won’t be easy. It will take nerves of steel and champions of We The People. It will mean taking on a corporate behemoth. IT CAN, THOUGH, BE DONE. An effective stealth and harassment campaign can work for us as well as it worked for the Colonists in defeating the British. So, which of the candidates has the moxy?
Joe Nichols? Peter Marchetti? Dan Bianchi? Tricia Farley-Bouvier? Pam Malumphy? Ryan Scago? Peter White? Jeff Ferrin? Melissa Mazzeo? John Krol? Terry Kinnas? Churchill Cotton? Alf Barbalunga? Kathleen Amuso? We won’t list all of them. You get the point.
GE Got Off Pretty Much Free as a Bird
The remediation of a small portion of the Housatonic River did little to solve the problem. GE dumped its poisons all over the city. Where are these locations? Where are the toxicity maps that must exist somewhere, that identify where the stuff is? You talk to the old timers, the GE retirees, and they’ll put the pop into it when they tell you what they know. That’s all anecdotal? Where are the documents that answer the question: WHAT THE HECK IS IN PITTSFIELD WATER, SOIL, and AIR. WE STILL DON’T KNOW!
We know of one location, in addition to the Housatonic River: Hill 78 next to Allendale School. The hill has grown into a mountain nearly five stories tall. This massive Everest of poison stands literally next door to the grammar school, which is about reopen for the 2011-12 school year. THE PLANET wonders: How susceptible are the lungs, the skin, the internal organs of developing young boys and girls to The Monsters Inside of Hill 78?
* What do you recommend doing about Hill 78? Something or nothing? Do you take the company’s word that everything is OK there?
* What do you recommend on further remediation of pollution in the Housatonic River?
* Do you favor GE’s solution to put a thin sand-cap layer on the bottom of Silver Lake as a means of addressing the horrific toxicity in that despoiled body of water? If not, what then? Should we press for removal of as much of the toxins as possible and restore the lake to a semblance of its former purity?
* Do you favor reopening the Consent Agreement? The agreement, signed in the late 1990s and tilted heavily in GE’s favor, can be reopened. In fact, it’s been reopened at least 10 times. Will Pittsfield newly elected politicians have the courage and backbone to finally press for more from the company, whether it’s in the form of remediation, cash payments, or both?
Case in Point: Silver Lake
What does case law say about water pollution, for example, as it pertains to Silver Lake? THE PLANET has been researching this, and we present our findings here. Much of this material is from the website law.jrank.org. We cite relevant federal statues, which will almost always supercede state and municipal law:
The Refuse Act
Federal statutory regulation of water pollution has been governed primarily by three pieces of legislation: the Refuse Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and the Clean Water Act.
The Rivers and Harbors Appropriations Act of 1899, 33 U.S.C.A. § 401 et seq., commonly known as the Refuse Act, was the first major piece of federal legislation regulating water pollution. The Refuse Act set effluent standards for the discharge of pollutants into bodies of water. An effluent standard limits the amount of pollutant that can be released from a specific point or source, such as a smokestack or sewage pipe.
The Refuse Act flatly prohibited pollution dischargedfrom ship and shore installations.
The italics are THE PLANET’s. The key point is that despite the fact that The Refuse Act was long on the books prohibiting discharges from shore installations, GE dumped massive amounts of poison into Silver Lake. Why were they allowed to do this? What is the penalty, now, well after the fact? A lousy five-inch ayer of sand? We must insist on more, much more. We must make them pay.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act
The Refuse Act was followed by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 (FWPCA), 33 U.S.C.A. § 1251 et seq.
Instead of focusing on sources of pollution through effluent standards, the FWPCA created water quality standards, which prescribed the levels of pollutants permitted in a given body of water. Where the Refuse Act concentrated on deterring specific types of polluters, the FWPCA concentrated on reducing specific types of pollution.
Since 1972, federal regulation of water pollution has been primarily governed by the Clean Water Act (CWA) 33 U.S.C.A. § 1251 et seq., which overhauled FWCPA. The CWA forbids any person to discharge pollutants into U.S. waters unless the discharge conforms with certain provisions of the act. Among those provisions are several that call upon the EPA to promulgate effluent standards for particular categories of water polluters.
Again, the emphasis is THE PLANET’s. Do you mean to say that all of the effluent into Silver Lake since the establishment of the FWPCA and CWA was legally allowed by permit? If not, who was monitoring the situation? Who in Pittsfield raised objections at the time?
Sadly, the time for objections passed not once, during the years of the pollution, but twice, with the one-sided Second Pillage of Pittsfield known as the Consent Agreement. Candidates: Will you let a Third Pillage of Pittsfield happen by not agreeing to finally hold GE fully accountable for making Pittsfield one of the most poisonous cities in the Northeast, if not in the country?
Do Companies Like GE Deliberately Lobby to Make Environmental Laws Vague and Easily Ignored?
To implement these standards, the CWA requires each polluter to obtain a discharge permit issued by the EPA through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Although the EPA closely monitors water pollution dischargers through the NPDES, primary responsibility for enforcement of the CWA rests with the states. Most states have also drafted permit systems similar to the NPDES.
These systems are designed to protect local supplies of groundwater, surface water, and drinking water. Persons who violate either the federal or state permit system face civil fines, criminal penalties, and suspension of their discharge privileges. Fine, but what about massive corporations? Can they violate at will because they shower huge amounts of money on politicians on the take?
The CWA also relies on modern technology to curb water pollution. It requires many polluters to implement the best practicable control technology, the best available technology economically achievable, or the best practicable waste treatment technology. The development of such technology for nontoxic polluters is based on a cost-benefit analysis in which the feasibility and expense of the technology is balanced against the expected benefits to the environment.
The CWA was amended in 1977 to address the nation’s increasing concern about toxic pollutants. Pursuant to the 1977 amendments, the EPA increased the number of pollutants it deemed toxic from nine to 65, and set effluent limitations for the 21 industries that discharge them. These limitations are based on measures of the danger these pollutants pose to the public health rather than on cost-benefit analyses.
It was in the Details
Many states have enacted their own water pollution legislation regulating the discharge of toxic and other pollutants into their streams and lakes. Enforcement of these water pollution measures has been frustrated by vaguely worded legislation and a scarcity of inspectors in several states. That’s probably the smoking gun in allowing GE to destroy the city and skip town, basically unchallenged.
Candidates: Step Up and Be Counted … or Defeated
So to return to our original point: Candidates for municipal and state office (the special election for state rep in Pittsfield made necessary by the No Show, The Larded Lout) — What do you propose, if anything, to do about this rape of the city that you all claim to love?
The electorate wants to know.
JUST A REMINDER: THE PITTSFIELD COLONIALS RETURN HOME TONIGHT AT BELOVED WAHCONAH PARK TO FACE THE WORCESTER TORNADOES. GAME TIME IS 7 P.M.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE!”
LOVE TO ALL.