PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, OCT. 13, 2011) — From the accounts we’ve received from various sources, the informational meeting last night in a dimly-lit Lenox Town Hall (power outage, operating on generators) was (a) worthwhile (b) mostly reasoned (c) “passionately dispassionate” and (d) leaving the crowd wanting more. By those measures, it seems a success.

THE PLANET intended to make it in poison — check that, in person — but while preparing to depart for Lenox, we had to answer a distress call from a damsel, auto related, that took us from the Bat Cave to the Prime Outlets in Lee. We missed the meeting, alas, but ended up with 15 bars of 90% dark chocolate from the fabulous Lindt outlet.

Nonetheless, we have been briefed, and since this was an informational meeting wherein the state presented its plan for dealing with the Housatonic River basically from south Pittsfield to Connecticut, we feel reasonalbly weel apprised of the official proceedings. Keep in mind that the state Department of Environmental Conservation presented a recommendation. This issue won’t be decided until 2012 sometime.


We did miss the color and flavor of the “unofficial” proceedings, and, we think, that’s where the story lies. That is untold. The Boring Broadsheet certainly didn’t tell it (see below), and if anyone wants to report on this aspect, please send your comments to THE PLANET for consideration.

THE PLANET would welcome commentary from those who attended the meeting.

We can add as a coda a sun ray about the coverage of the Boring Broadsheet of last night’s meeting. The area’s only daily has ignored this story to a profound degree of negligence. The BB has not only failed to educate the public on anything but the GE spin of this monstrous tale of industrial sin, but it perpetuates its transgressions when it provides token coverage to a meeting such as last night’s.


Trevor Jones’ piece provides a decent account of the state’s position, and THE PLANET doesn’t have issue there. The piece, however, comes out of nowhere, out of context similar to the one this web site has provided of these previous days, weeks, and months. GE’s poisoning of Pittsfield and environs is the LARGEST SINGLE ISSUE AFFECTING THE CITY AND THE COUNTY. And yet …

And yet, the BB runs no sidebars to Jones’ reportage detailing the views of either the Ward 4 Rest of River Group or the advocates of a more extensive cleanup such as that championed by Tim Gray and the Housatonic River Initiative. It budgets a tiny space on the front page and an even tinier jump inside to this huge story, forcing Jones to include  two throwaway paragraphs on the jump page of the piece on these important parts of the story. His management sent Jones into battle without the proper equipment. There should have been three reporters there: one to cover the meeting, and two to get the rest of the story.

The BB behaves as if it has been bought and sold on this story of GE’s hit-and-run murder of Pittsfield. It will twist information so as not to anger GE and not tick off the GOB Establishment that both currently have Pittsfield in an iron grip of complacency and censorship. While the BB rag dies its slow death from declining circulation, it will do all it can to please its corporate and special-interest masters. Why? Where are the rewards for such an unconscionable policy? And who are the beneficiaries?



The Rest of the River occupies just one slot, second place at that, in the two aspects of the horrible problem GE left to the city of Pittsfield when it left town, taking its jobs and leaving its poisons with us. What do we do about Pittsfield?

Don’t be fooled by the Consent Agreement. It settled nothing. That foul deal didn’t put the matter to rest.

THE IMPORTANT THING TO FOCUS ON: The agreement contains language for reopening the provisions, as this site exclusively shared yesterday. Prime among the matters that need revisiting are, in order: Cleaning Silver Lake, removing Hill 78, and tracing down the currently unknown toxic dumps scattered throughout the city (all of Merrill Road, for example, from the East Street intersection to Allendale, especially land on the eastern part).


The Consent Agreement wants to place a cap on a century’s worth of poisons on the lake bottom, a cap that will likely continue the poisoning of Pittsfield’s groundwater (making it forever unusable) and permit leeching into the Housatonic, polluting it again after the cleanup. Remember, over time, the earth, being alive and dynamic, moves. The cap will move, too, and then what? The river polluted, all over again.

For nearly a century, GE poured the worst of its industrial poisons into Silver Lake, destroying what for centuries previous had been one of the ecological wonders of Pittsfield. GE poured so much toxicity into Silver Lake that it would occasionally catch on fire. Talk to the old timers about that.

Under the woeful Consent Decreee, where city officials sold Pittsfield into the lake and down the river for 30 pieces of silver amounting to $10 million (probably less than six month’s compensation of Jeff Immelt), Silver Lake will have a small portion of its 26 acres dredged. The vast majority of the old GE poisons will be left there, swept under the rug by a cap of clean fill.


Meanwhile, PCB levels in fish taken from Silver Lake, incidentally, register 200 ppm, 100 TIMES the threshold for safe consumption.

In its deepest part, Silver Lake goes down 30 feet. It receives water flow from several municipal storm drains.  A 48-inch diameter concrete conduit, located near Fenn and East streets, connects the lake to the Housatonic River. This conduit discharges water from the lake to the river. In short, there’s a ton of aquatic inflow-outflow exchanges from city-to-lake-to-river that continuously happen under the surface. Leaving the toxicity in place, capped, begs for the continuance of a nightmare.


PCBs and a marathon list of other toxins infest the lake bottom, sediment, bank soils, and surface water. The federal EPA reports that “discharges of PCBs and other chemicals [unspecified]” have been “historic.” The EPA doesn’t use such a word lightly.

“Historic.” That means one of the most extensive examples in history. That is what GE and the Consent Agreement want to … cap. They don’t want to get rid of the poisons. They want to cap the poisons.

The sinful Consent Decree wants to cap  this “historic” level of pollution and dredge a mere 400 cubic yards of “hot spot” sediment, next to what the EPA calls “one of the historic GE outfalls.”

Unless this decree is reopened, remediation of the bank soil and capping of the lake will begin later this year, according to the EPA. Documents on Silver Lake are available at There is a section on Silver Lake available at the EPA site under the “Reports” tab.



In other news, we hear from The Stooley these thoughts on the recently concluded state rep’s debate on WBRK, moderated by Bill Sturgeon and Donna Todd Rivers.

The Stooley writes:


I was at a party in your next of the woods in the town of Stockbridge last summer and the subject of Tanglewood came up. I tried to make a joke that went over like a pregnant pole vaulter. “Don’t you really think the conductor has it pretty easy, just standing up there with the baton in front of the orchestra”?

Well the WBRK debate came off the same way.

“Let’s all tell where you’re having your victory parties.” Great non-question.

PAM MALUMPHY: ” I’m going to be at Mazzeo’s North, and last but not least I’m having an ice cream party tomorrow for seniors.

MARK JESTER:  “I’m going to be at American Legion on Wendell Avenue, fighting Gerry Lee for a barstool.”

MARK MILLER: “I’m going to be at Baba Louie’s on Depot Street and if you don’t vote for me I wish you’d vote for Mark Jester. We need a General Court Jester.

TFB: (CASUALLY, AS COOL AS POSSIBLE WHILE TRYING TO HOLD BACK HER EXCITEMENT)  I’m going to be at the Itam this Friday with Gov. Deval Patrick being there bring everyone it’s free it’s to get-out-the-vote rally. It’s sort of the only way I can fill up a room because the unity rally certainly didn’t work out very well did it? I had, like,  30 people there compared to No Show’s 200 the last time we fooled the voters. But not Friday, cuz Deval will be there, Jimmy Ruberto and maybe even some of the GOB’s will be there to get out the vote for TFB don’t miss it. I’m not charging a dime for it. It’s my way of assembling an upstaged event cuz I’m so popular huh…”

The Stooley sent up a copy of the invitation he received to the “free” event with TFB and the guv.

“Please join Governor Deval Patrick as we kick off GOTV weekend for Tricia’s campaign. The Itam’s classic [gummy-bear] pasta will be featured and we will Get Out The Vote!”

Under more info, we read: “Suggested donation: $25, $50, $100. Kids free (under 18??).”

At a hundred clams apiece, TFB should do pretty good by the guv. Wonder how much he’s getting under the table in addition to some free pasta? Maybe a jar of sauce?

THE PLANET thanks The Stooley for his report from the field.






  1. Dave Martindale
    October 13, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    At the DEP meeting last night there were probably well over 200 people in attendance. Prior to the meeting there were approximately 100 persons outside in a peaceful demonstration most advocating for a more comprehensive clean-up.
    My perception of the Mass DEP presentation is that the DEP plan is politically driven and the science in general has been ignored. MASS DEP’s plan is to dredge Woods Pond of all contaminants and make it deeper and wider. The plan involves removing what is estimated by DEP to be 25% of all contamination in the river by remediating Woods Pond. Other hot spots along the river would also be addressed. Armoring of the river banks is not to be considered nor are any landfills. The attitude of DEP towards innovative technologies and to adapt the clean-up as the clean-up evolves is commendable as well as holding GE accountable. The down side is that the DEP plan leaves that other 75% of contamination untouched. DEP commented that edible fish and wildlife in our lifetime is not achievable so we are not going to strive for that goal. DEP’s plan also includes dredging Woods Pond again at a later date. It is thought that the impoundment, if made deeper and wider in the first dredging, would be a trap for PCB. My guess is that no one will ever convince GE to do a second dredging no matter what.

    There were many in the audience with conflicting ideas as to what should be done. Comments ranged from “Do nothing” to “We want all the PCBs removed”.

    My convictions have not changed as to what should be done to the river after this meeting. If anything I believe more strongly that a total and complete removal plan be implemented. I found those that advocate for a less invasive plan to be simply “selfish”. I heard much talk about being able to walk along the edges of the river and the nicety of being able to see deer, bear, ducks and other wildlife from the backyard. I would like to point out that much of the contaminated land belongs to the Commonwealth, not the abutters, and that “pristine” environment, though beautiful through some eyes, others view as poisoned. I believe we have a moral obligation to ourselves, our children and our children’s children and everyone downstream and downwind to remove this toxicity from our environment. I believe that nature would return remediated areas to this same condition if given time. The selfish ones do not want it to happen in their back yard and do not want to give up their playground.

    I heard a statement last night that I found rather disturbing. The speaker said that 40% of the attendants to the meeting would be stricken with cancer in the course of their lifetime. So, because a lot of us are going to get cancer anyways, when weighing the impact on the river, the speaker indicated that added “Risk” does not seem to be equitable or sensible compared to the potential destruction / disruption required to remediate. I view that as a defeated attitude. Perhaps by cleaning up the river and its flood plain, fewer cancer cases would be the norm.

    For those that live along the river and want a minimal clean-up: I encourage you to do your homework and see if you really want to maintain that position. A review of Dr. David Carpenter’s Zip Code Study of 2005 would be advised. Dr Carpenter concludes that living near a contaminated waste site, (read: Contaminated Housatonic River) increases the probability of numerous health risks.

    There are three routes of contamination into one’s body. Absorption through the skin. Ingestion, eating contaminated food and Inhalation. Most of the PCB contamination in people today is from eating contaminated food. Scientists are now acknowledging that inhalation is also a major route of exposure. The University of Albany did a study and concluded that PCB readily volatizes from the Hudson River banks. One could conclude that locally there would be little difference. If you still do not believe that these chlorinated compounds volatize, drive by Silver Lake, especially when the wind is still, like early in the morning or go to behind Johnson Ford to the outfall of the lake into the river. Roll the window down and take a deep breath. That pungent aroma you smell is PCB. Your nose can detect parts per billion. The odor is unmistakable.

    • Ray Ovac
      October 13, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      DM, Not only does Silver Lake air stink, it’ll make you dizzy!
      In August I drove by with the windows open and posted the following on Topix (and now in retrospect I’m concerned there may be long-term medical consequences to my fifteen-minute science experiment — remember that a Berkshire Eagle employee died of a rare brain cancer after only eleven years in the same neighborhood):
      “Want a learning experience — a real wake-up call?
      With the car windows wide open, try driving the length of Silver Lake Blvd. past the vast array of solar panels to your right, then merge left onto 4th Street, then left at Fenn St., left at East St., and then left again back onto Silver Lake Blvd..
      Breathe normal the whole time. That dizziness you feel (and which can last HOURS) is the effect of the aromatic chemical poisons in the waters of the lake doing a number on your braincells. Is it any wonder folks get ‘rare’ Cancers throughout neighborhoods surrounding Silver Lake? You really think 14 inches of G.E. sand is going to stop these colorless, odorless, poisonous emissions fouling the air coming off Silver Lake?”

      • Dave Bubriski
        October 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

        I have no objection to a radical solution for Silver Lake. It seems obvious that if a cleanup is need it would begin at Silver Lake and other areas of Pittsfield.

        I’m not sure of the value of anecdotal “evidence.” But here is mine. Twenty one years ago I moved my house on Eric Drive. If you enter Eric Drive into google earth you can see that the neighborhood it’s in is pretty close to the river and some of the documents that I have seen recommend dredging and excavation of the river and flood plain near the neighborhood. Enter Eliot Andrews. One of the first people I met after moving in was Mr. Andrews. Mr. Andrews was a nonagenarian. Even in his nineties he was pretty active he walked the perimeter of the neighborhood and had been doing so for many years. He also seemed to enjoy puttering around in his yard. When he died he was just over or under 100 years of age I don’t remember exactly. Mr. Andrews breathed a lot of air in the neighborhood…air that came into contact with the river bank and flood plain. Maybe without the PCB’s Mr. Andrews would have died at age 120 not age 100…….does this mean that everyone in my neighborhood who breaths the same air that Mr. Andrews breathed will live to be 100? Or does it suggest that anecdotes have limited value?

        • Ray Ovac
          October 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

          Living 3 miles south of Silver Lake isn’t exactly the belly of the beast.

          • Dave Bubriski
            October 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

            I guess that you didn’t see the first part of the post

        • Dave Martindale
          October 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

          I agree with you whole heartedly on the clean-up of Silver Lake. Seems to me to be a huge travesty to spend any money downstream without first addressing contamination upstream. To leave 5’ of the most toxic sludge in this entire area, in place, seems to me to be letting GE off way too easy.

          There are several other sites upstream that should also be addressed.

          Hill 78 was once on the National Priority list, top 10 sites in the country, to be cleaned up. The Consent Decree made it a deposit for fill less than 50 PPM PCB and no clean-up. Smart move on GE’s part. There are now thousands of tons of low level PCB on top of whatever was there, making it arguably extremely difficult to remediate. There is no liner between it and the ground water. GE’s own contractor reported PCB, Dioxin, VOC and Svoc in the ground water below the hill. In fact, the hill was once a ravine that is reported to contain drums of?, capacitors, transformer carcasses, wood blocks off the GE manufacturing floor and God only knows what else.

          Unkamet Brook stretches from up near the site of the jail and travels south, parallel to Partridge Road and Cheshire Road down to Crane Avenue, across Crane Ave and Dalton Ave, behind GE Plastics and across Merrill Road to the Housatonic. There is PCB throughout that stretch as well as waste from GE Plastics. I hear rumors that the boogie man vacations at Unkamet Brook.

          David, if you would like to meet sometime and compare notes, I am very willing to share with you my knowledge and we can swap a few anecdotal stories.

          • Dave Martindale
            October 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

            I once long ago asked someone that I knew to be knowledgeable as to what was their opinion as to why GE resisted so strongly in the clean-up of Hill 78.

            His reply said little and spoke volumes at the same time. He told me that when GE was manufacturing capacitors, capacitors failed like “moths in front of a flame”.

          • Ray Ovac
            October 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

            Speaking of Dioxins, has anyone ever tested Pittsfield’s soil, air, and water — especially around Silver Lake and Hill 78 — for the presence of Dioxins?

          • Dave Bubriski
            October 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

            Dave we might have a lot to agree on and I’m sure we would have some points of disagrement and I would have no objection to meeting you.

        • scott
          October 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

          There are cases of people who smoke or drink like fish and never have any problems but that’s the rare cases do we ignore the other billion? Also Pittsfield isn’t the only place where PCB”s contaminate the air and water.

          • Ray Ovac
            October 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

            Perhaps GE resisted clean-up of Hill 78 because of the presence of high levels of Dioxins amongst those failed capacitors. Dioxins can be created when PCB’s, a liquid component of those old-style capacitors, are subjected to high heat, the kind produced when a capacitor suffered a spectacular failure, for example by shorting-out.

  2. Ron Kitterman
    October 13, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Sounds more like a get out the wallet rally than a get out the vote function … Thanks Dan

    • Dave Bubriski
      October 13, 2011 at 11:20 am #

      Ron, one of the best one liners I’ve heard in a while….will become one of my “ad-libs”

    • scott
      October 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Isn’t it always?

  3. Ray Ovac
    October 13, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    DV, since they’re constantly being referred to on the Planet and on Topix, it’s long overdue that Pittsfield’s GOBs be outed in print. Please post names, business titles, and family connections, a list as complete as possible of those who would be classified as controlling Pittsfield’s (and Berkshire County’s) political landscape. You got some Planet readers carping about sunlight and transparency and I can’t think of a better way to accommodate those voices by casting a spotlight onto just who the GOBs are, their occupations, and how they benefit from decisions made behind closed doors.

    • Steve Wade
      October 13, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      Ray You can start by useing your own name!

      • Dave Bubriski
        October 13, 2011 at 11:23 am #

        Good point

  4. Tim Gray
    October 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Since tomorrow is Hill 78 day I thought I would let you read HRI summer 1999 newsleter full text at

    look for dioxin

    1988 EPA Site Assessment: “Building 78 Landfill – The unit was formerly a ravine which has been filled with waste material. … Former employees stated in an interview that drums and liquid containing ‘Pyranol’ were disposed in the landfill in the 1950s and 1960s. Pyranol is composed of 60% PCBs. Sampling of the fill has revealed some areas with PCB concentrations at several hundred ppm. … DEQE [the Mass. Department of Environmental Quality and Engineering – which preceded the DEP] suspects an oil layer exists in the landfill. Former employees stated PCB-containing liquids were poured on the ground.”

    It only gets worse. An APRIL 1994 Public Involvement Plan document by the Massachusetts DEP states: “The Hill 78 landfill is approximately two acres in size with a maximum depth of approximately 40 feet. … The school property is within 50 feet of the Hill 78 site fence line. From approximately 1940 to 1980, GE used the Hill 78 area as a landfill for demolition or construction debris, excess fill and solid (reportedly non-hazardous) waste. GE also allegedly used the landfill to dispose of drums containing PCBs and fuller’s earth saturated with PCBs in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The EPA RCRA Facility Assessment stated that former GE employees disposed of PCB oil in the landfill. From 1980 to early 1990, GE used this area to store soils containing less than 50 ppm PCBs from routine, facility-wide excavations. Sampling of the fill revealed areas with PCB concentrations up to 120,000 ppm in subsurface soil.” (emphasis ours)

    “Investigations in this area conducted prior to 1989 were completed on behalf of GE… Most of the soil sampling was completed to determine the extent of contamination in the proposed Altresco plant construction area. The location selected for the Altresco plant generally contains less than 1 ppm PCBs, except for the northern portion of this area, where concentrations as high as 16,000 ppm were detected at a depth of six feet.” (emphasis ours)

    “Oily sheens were present on two of the soil samples from the fill. The fill extends at least 25 feet below the ground surface. Subsurface soil at the site is contaminated with PCBs at concentra-tions up to 120,000 ppm and VOCs were present in soils at concentrations of less than 1 ppm. Ground-water samples were collected from the four wells and analyzed for VOCs, SVOCs, PCBs and inorganics. Results indicated the presence of phenols at 75 ppb.

    In 1991, GE’s consultants completed a Phase I investigation of the site. … Results confirmed that the landfill area is the most contaminated portion of the site. Ground water in the vicinity of the landfill area is conta-minated with PCBs at concentrations up to 9 ppb. In addition, VOCs were detected in ground-water samples collected from wells located downgradient of the landfill area and south of the Altresco power plant at concentrations of less than 1,000 ppb. Ground-water samples collected from a well in the southwestern corner of the site contained concentra-tions of less than 30 ppb of dioxins and furans. The Department classified the site as a priority and GE submitted Phase II Scope of Work proposing further definition of ground-water contamination at the site and assessment of contamina-tion potentially attributable to abandoned transformer oil lines extending from the East Street Area II site across this site and to Building 51 (part of the Unkamet Brook site). (emphasis ours) And then from the DEP’s Public Involvement Plan, Volume 5, Page 12: Table 1: Descriptions and Characteristics of GE Pittsfield Disposal Sites: Hill 78 Landfill Area; 57 acres; DEP & EPA jurisdiction – Contamination: PCBs in subsurface soils (average concentration 498 ppm; maximum concentration: 120,000 ppm)

    • danvalenti
      October 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

      Thanks. This makes an excellent educational pretext for tomorrow’s PLANET.

  5. Dave Bubriski
    October 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Tim, do you have the rest of the story that I asked about?

  6. rick
    October 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    gov.patrick is friends with prez obama, prez obama is friends with g.e. prez gives g.e.a free ride on taxes….. do you think the deck is stacked against cleaning up the pollution??? has the gov. done anything about this issue??? better get alot of boston news papers in on this story or this will get burried deeper than the pcbs in silver lake..

  7. Dave Bubriski
    October 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Dan, I saw Mark Miller at the Lenox meeting last night. I wasn’t able to hear the State Rep. radio debate but a friend who did hear the debate told me about Miller’s comment regarding Jester. My friend made no mention of a court Jester comment and neither did Mark Miller when I asked him if he said that people should vote for Jester if they didn’t vote for hm (Miller)

    I won’t be voting for Miller but I was glad to meet and talk with him. I concluded that though I disagree with him on several issues he is a decent human being and a good guy.

    • danvalenti
      October 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

      Agreed. Mark’s a fine fellow in the fight for the right reasons.

  8. Tim Gray
    October 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    Sorry Dave B. I posted the answer this afternoon , ran to town only to find later it didn’t post.

    Part two Dr Montague is well known for his precise writing with citations

    Ray Ovac As far as Stop and Shop… we turned this information in many times but as far as I know it never has been investigated.

    There are several sites we turned into DEP upstream of the 2 mile clean up that should have been sampled. You know whats upstream will come downstream.

    Fullers Earth- Its everywhere. 300+ homes passed the GE bar to sample. Many slipped through the process. Over 50% had to be cleaned up.!3,000+ worked at GE for decades. Does anyone think they got all the homes? Some got the fill easy and some had to sign a document which is attached to their deed at the Registry. Basically the document absolves GE for the use of this fill. It appears the lawyers were already at work.(circa 1950). Whats sad is that children are probably still playing in a toxic mess. You know they are the most in danger!

    The Wegman Study data was never released. GE got a hold of it and it was missing in action. Ed Bates died of Parkinson’s disease and Charlie Fessenden died of leukemia. We still have the interview on video. It was featured in Mickey Friedman’s documentary “Good Things to Life”. We put a copy at the Pittsfield Library and they told us it was taken out and never returned. About 1998 the Gazette offered to screen this documentary at the Berkshire Museum. We agreed and it was all set to go. That is until the museum backed out. I’ll let you folks decide who on the BOD might have squashed it. We showed it at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. The theater was packed.

    • Dave Bubriski
      October 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

      thank you

    October 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Change of subject for a minute. Oh how them Red Sox have let me down over the years. but this year its discussing how they let us down. What is Henry and the rest going to do about it, and where were they when all this was going on.

    I think the the Red Sox nation should boycott at least opening game to sent them all a clear message

    • Shakes His Head
      October 14, 2011 at 10:42 am #

      No you can keep going to games and paying hundreds of dollars to watch the Yankees continue the dominanace in the AL East. Then, three out of four years, other teams (like us) will show the east coast that beating up on Baltimore and Toronto artificially inflates the win column and the primadonna teams have no heart in crunch time.


      The Detroit Tigers

  10. P. Alfonso
    October 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    This website is leading the league as fare as I’m concerned with both the civility of exchanges and the intelligence of info. Planet crushes BB and every other media in the area.