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TWO QUESTIONS LOOM ON GE-POLLUTION QUESTION; ONE WILL OCCUPY CENTER STAGE TONIGHT IN LENOX; PLANET OFFERS A PREAMBLE OF COMMENTARY

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, OCT. 12, 2011) — Two enormous questions loom over Berkshire County and the county seat, Pittsfield, Mass., with respect to the industrial toxins left in the air, water, and soil by General Electric Co. after it pulled out of the area:

(1) What should be done about the Rest of the River (south of Pittsfield past the points already remediated)?

(2) Should Pittsfield press for a reopener in the Consent Agreement and address matters that were left unatttended, including the removal of Hill 78, the full cleanup (not just a capping) of Silver Lake, and — in an area not addressed whatsoever by the agreement — the pollution in Pittsfield’s groundwater?

PITTSFIELD AND (ESPECIALLY) ENVIRONS: CENTER STAGE TONIGHT, AT 6:30 P.M., IN LENOX

The second of these questions should be, though it hasn’t been, THE issue in the upcoming campaigns for state legislature and municipal office. For some reason, candidates themselves and debate moderators have been reluctant to fully explore the question of reopeners.

The first of these questions assumes a place front and center on the stage tonight at Lenox Town Hall. At the meeting, the state will present its favored plan for addressing the Rest of the River. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. One hour prior to that, there will be a rally outside town hall sponsored by those who favor a full cleanup of the river. It promises to be a significant evening that may have repercussions for years, decades, and even eons to come. We hope everyone who can make this meeting will attend.

Dictatorships and other forms of authoritarian governments do not have to bother with the often cumbersome and confusing steps a democratic republic takes when confronting such an issue. Authoritarian rule decides and implements, imposing its will from the top down. In a republic, theoretically at least, the decision percolates from the ground up.

We know, however, that when multinational conglomerates such as General Electric are involved, and when politicians are so beholding to Big Money that they will not listen to We The People, the potential for abuse remains high. You might say, in this case, the abuse meter is on Red Alert. This is not to suggest definitively that the fix is in, but everyone must be alert to that possibility.

Democracies involve a multiplicity of views that, somehow, must coalesce into action that benefits the most people and satisfies as many qualified interests as possible. It’s a lousy way to govern, but aren’t all the other ways so much worse? These many viewpoints in the free marketplace of ideas must be heard tonight. That’s why THE PLANET has been driving this issue, nearly exclusively, for the past week.

‘JOBS’ PROBLEM DIRECTLY TIED TO POLLUTION, or THE LOCAL ‘DIRTY SECRET’ THAT AREA SPECIAL INTEREST WON’T PUBLICLY ADMIT BUT THAT THE REST OF THE BUSINESS WORLD KNOWS

We can think of no other local issue of greater importance. Candidates for office will say “jobs.” THE PLANET responds: “Pollution.” The dirty secret that no office holder wants to publicly acknowledge about the local economy is the link between the pollution and Pittsfield’s maddening inability to significantly expand its tax base by bringing in new businesses.

Simply put, the word is out: Pittsfield is toxic. Come here and you risk becoming embroiled in poison. With the fierce competition among communities nationwide and worldwide, when handicapped by the uncounted tons of industrial toxins still in its environment, Pittsfield has no chance. Unless the pollution is removed or made inert, Pittsfield has no chance in this global competition.

At the meeting tonight, it’s important that every claim made by every party be challenged. The data, information, reason, and logic alone should decide this question. Emotions, while they can be useful in providing impetus to action, should not be the triggers to action.

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GUEST COMMENTARY: FULL-SCALE REMOVAL OF POISONS WORKS WELL FOR THE ENVIRONMENT’

By CHARLIE CIANFARINI

Special to PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

No one expected in a two-week period an earthquake, a hurricane, and a tropical storm to affect our area late this summer, but these events were timely as we move toward a decision on the Rest of the River PCB cleanup in the hands of the US EPA.

At the Citizens Coordinating Council meeting on Sept. 14th, a report was given by EPA and GE on how the banks of the first two miles of the Housatonic River Restoration project responded to these events, especially high water flows and flooding.  The results could not be better.  There was almost no loss of riverbank or vegetation along this stretch of the river and while there was flooding, and ultimately there was protection to the river and personal properties along the river.

Just go and see for yourself the areas of the river between the Newell Street bridge and Fred Garner Park (the first two and a half miles) and you see vegetation, trees, critters and a thriving river and eco-system.

This proves that a well engineered and executed remediation and restoration project is effective.  It also makes the argument that the Rest of the River cleanup can be designed and completed to be just as successful and will result in a river that will be clean from PCBs and other toxins in the sediment and still be a beautiful, vibrant, healthy, living waterway.

It is time for all the citizens, businesses, politicians, agencies and independent groups to support the science, stop the politics, and stand with the EPA in what should be a complete remediation and restoration of the Rest of the River in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

THE PLANET thanks Mr. Cianfarini for this commentary.

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WHO IS DAVE MARTINDALE?

He didn’t go looking for attention. He doesn’t want the spotlight. He loathes the attention. He doesn’t want to be the story. He is Dave Martindale, who has assumed a leading role in this question of GE, pollutants, and politics.

We called him an “environmentalist.” We call our good friend Dave Bubriski and “environmentalist.” We use that term in its broadest sense, to indicate someone who cares about the air, water, and land that many too-often take for granted and abuse. An environmentalist who also makes his or her career of it on the science side we call an “ecologist.” The two, though related, are not the same. Every person who attends the meeting tonight in Lenox is an “environmentalist.”

With that, we present this note Dave Martindale sent to THE PLANET that, we think, definitely answers the question that has become this discussion’s equivalent of “Who is John Galt.”

“Who is Dave Martindale”?

THE PLANET takes liberty and publishes this e-mail, which speaks volumes about this man’s intentions and integrity:

Thanks for the kind words and many many thanks for maintaining your site and giving the average guy a place to throw in their two cents worth.   I commend you for standing up for the little guy.

I was VERY reluctant to post about myself and my credentials.  I still cringe when I think about it.   There are always those that find fault and question, no matter who you are.   To me, this is not about me, but about the River. I do not want to be the focus nor do I seek attention.      It is about what we can we can do to make the river better and leave the world a little better than we found it.   I consider myself to only be an average guy.  I blinked when you called me an environmentalist.  I did not set out to be an activist nor an environmentalist.  It is a matter of doing the right thing at the right time.

I have that philosophy in all my efforts.  May not be perfect but we believe that we do the best we can and always strive to do better in all that we do.

I would like to think that our effort makes things a little better than they would be if we just sit back and do nothing.

I often comment that it is easy to sit on the side of the pond and make waves.  Be the dude out in the boat trying to keep the boat floating and moving in the desired direction, in the midst of turmoil and storm.  That dude is the real hero.

We need a hero to step up and lead the fight to reopen the Consent Decree.   It will take a person with exception fortitude to stand toe to toe with the sharks that GE will surely throw back at us.

Ground Water was never addressed in the Consent Decree.  Pittsfield’s ground water will never be used for drinking water.  That fact alone should be cause enough to be the lever to stick in the crack.

Be well my friend.

Dave Martindale

THE PLANET thanks Dave for resisting his impulse to remain in the background. His form of activism — from right-minded people who actually find activism uncomfortable — will be what saves Pittsfield and environs, if that is to happen.

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AGAIN, WE FOUND EVENTS PRECLUDING OUR GAME PLAN, WHICH WAS TODAY TO PRESENT MORE INFORMATION ON HILL 78 AND SILVER LAKE. THAT IS THE LUXURY ONE HAS WHEN ONE OWNS THE MEDIUM.

WE CAN DO WHAT WE WISH AND WHAT WE THINK WILL BE THE MOST HELPFUL. NO ‘OWNERS’ CAN CONTROL WHAT WE SAY, AND NO ADVERTISERS CAN PRESSURE US TO SPIKE STORIES. WE ARE, WITHOUT DOUBT, THE FREEST MEDIUM OF MASS COMMUNICATION IN THE AREA. THIS SITE HAS GROWN ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY ON AND BY WORD OF MOUTH. WE ACCEPT NO ADVERTISING SO THAT WE CANNOT BE INFLUENCED. WE BUY NO ADVERTISING BECAUSE, AS OF YET, WE HAVEN’T NEEDED IT. WE THE PEOPLE HAVE MADE THIS SITE, AND WE THANK EVERYONE — FRIEND AND FOE ALIKE — FOR THEIR ‘SAY.’

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.’

LOVE TO ALL.

22 Responses to “TWO QUESTIONS LOOM ON GE-POLLUTION QUESTION; ONE WILL OCCUPY CENTER STAGE TONIGHT IN LENOX; PLANET OFFERS A PREAMBLE OF COMMENTARY”

  1. Ray Ovac
    October 12, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    DM, you say “We need a hero to step up and lead the fight to reopen the Consent Decree. It will take a person with exception fortitude to stand toe to toe with the sharks that GE will surely throw back at us.” Which of the current crop of Berkshire public officials and local candidates for public office display that exceptional fortitude?

    • danvalenti
      October 12, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      Perhaps it takes one of the “laity,” that is, a citizen, who will lead the battle, a Joan of Arc, if you will. Ideally, it would be someone who holds and wields power (DERIVED FROM THE PEOPLE NEVER FORGET), since that will more quickly open doors. If a civilian does it, those doors will have to be kicked in, because the first line of defense will be to bar the doors. Let’s keep putting this to our politicians and candidates: Who will be The Chosen One?

  2. Tim Gray
    October 12, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    This is a column by Mickey Friedman (Berkshire Record) about a presentation By Dr. David Carpenter –

    Dr. David Carpenter, a neurotoxicologist and professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Toxicology in the School of Public Health at State University of New York, has studied PCBs for years.

    1) He has studied the Akwesasne Mohawk Indians who ate PCB-contaminated fish. Their children have significantly lower IQ levels. An earlier Japanese study found that IQ levels were anywhere from 5 to 10 points lower in PCB-exposed children.
    A similar study in Anniston, Alabama near the Monsanto plant found that exposed parents had similar IQ deficits.

    2) PCBs mimic thyroid hormones which regulate our metabolism. If you have inadequate thyroid hormone during development you’re at risk for mental-retardation. If you have inadequate thyroid hormone as an adult you tend to be sleepy, dull, overweight, with dry skin, and no energy. If you have too much thyroid hormone you tend to be skinny, you can’t sleep at all, you’re hyper-active.” Adult Mohawks with the top third of PCB levels have a four and a half fold greater chance of having clinical hypo-thyroidism.
    3) As for cancer, a Maryland study found that people with high PCB levels had a much greater likelihood of developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma. People with levels of 6.7 parts of PCBs per billion in the blood, had 2.7 times more likelihood of developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma than people with much lower levels. People with levels of 10.1 parts per billion were 4.1 times more likely to develop lymphoma.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of data about PCB blood levels in Berkshire County. But the little data we do have is very disturbing.

    In 1997, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MPH) performed its Housatonic River Area Exposure Study. A total of 148 people were given blood tests. 75 people had PCB blood levels of between 0 and 4 ppb. 43 people had levels between 5 – 9 ppb. 21 had levels between 15 and 20 ppb. And 6 people had levels above 20 ppb.
    The background level in the United States is between 0.9 ppb and 1.5 ppb. The people who were tested had significantly higher levels of PCBs than most Americans.
    Now think again about the Maryland study and the 2.7 fold increased risk of non¬Hodgkins lymphoma at levels of 6.7 ppb.

    Dr. Carpenter’s new studies show we are all at risk from breathing in PCBs. You don’t have to have worked at GE. You don’t have to have eaten PCB ¬contaminated fish. All you have to do is breathe.

    New York State hospitals create a registry of the diseases their patients suffer from. There is also a comprehensive registry of the approximately 900 contaminated waste sites in New York State. Dr. Carpenter’s team correlated these databases to see whether there were any links between those areas where you could find persistent organic pollutants like PCBs, and the ailments people were experiencing.

    Dr. Carpenter said: “We found that living next to the Hudson River … suggests the chance of having a heart attack is 39 fold greater than if you live in a zip code that doesn’t abut a hazardous waste site. This is the highest risk ratio we have ever found for any disease. It’s highly statistically significant … (and) it does say that living next to a contaminated river increases your risk of a heart attack.”

    His Hudson River data found a 36 fold elevated risk of diabetes as compared to people who don’t live near a contaminated site. “(And) the levels you have in air in most of the sites where it has been measured are not terribly high. But I think our results suggest that you don’t need high levels in order to have adverse health effects. And so that’s really the punchline.”

    • scott
      October 13, 2011 at 6:08 am #

      Tim thank you for all you have done for the Berkshires and the river.

  3. danvalenti
    October 12, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    THE PLANET thanks Tim Gray for sharing Mr. Friedman’s article.

  4. Tony Truran
    October 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Hi Dan,

    I cannot be in Lenox tonight,

    I have seen the RAVGE brought upon the river basin, for 50 years BY GENRAL ELECTRIC,

    Viernal pools poisioneded,etc…..

    • danvalenti
      October 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Appreciate the comment, TT.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    October 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I agree the candidates, moderators and the media save the planet have been reluctant to fully explore many important issues such as 1. PCB’s, 2. Reopening the consent decree, 3. Hill 78 in ward 2 with a candidate on the ballot (Mirrandi) and a current serving city councilor that recently ran for State Representative , 4. Privatization of the school buses (even with the death of a local man) , or 5. protesters on Wall Street. They All feel comfortable taking about their experience and jobs and don’t want to touch on the important issues that face our community. Not to mention 6. taxes. Let’s get out the vote ,though that will at least provide some needed jobs for Pittsfield.

    • danvalenti
      October 13, 2011 at 7:09 am #

      As usual, Ron Kitterman raises essential (and ignored) questions. Establishment Candidates (ECs) apparently feel OK saying nothing about the issue that truly matter. Oh, how they must love low turnouts. ECs should, on principle, be turned out of office.

  6. Dave G
    October 12, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    what a great meeting in lenox about 80 people out front and about 180 during the meeting ,it ran till 9:00 with people roaming around talking. better typers will fill you in later i hope

    • danvalenti
      October 13, 2011 at 7:10 am #

      THE PLANET is open to as much commentary on this meeting as possible, seeing that the BB needed the Heimlich maneuver after its “coverage.”

  7. Ray Ovac
    October 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    From an HRI interview:
    Ed Bates: “And now he’s concerned about the Fullers Earth – you know there’s a million and a half pounds of Fullers Earth buried somewhere around Pittsfield.”
    Charles Fessenden: “You bet, well they’ll clean that up little
    by little. They’re finding the sites.”
    Ed Bates: “Well if I were them I’d be worried about where the Stop N’ Shop is cause there used to be a big dump right in back of the Stop N’ Shop. Remember there used to be an outdoor movie there.” http://www.housatonic-river.com/hri-pcb.pdf

    Tim Gray, has the dump site to which Ed Bates refers containing 1.5 million pounds of Fuller’s Earth been located and remediated? Also, was the Stop N Shop dump site ever remediated?

    • scott
      October 13, 2011 at 6:14 am #

      The answer is no the old bank that has been for lease is sitting on toxic waste as well right there on Merrill rd. I wonder if the land Berkshire money management sits on has a clean bill of health he bought it for peanuts.

  8. Ray Ovac
    October 12, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Tim Gray, was David Wegman’s study onf the 1980′s ever released to the public? Was it a total capitulation to GE or did it actually have merit?

  9. Ray Ovac
    October 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    To everyone, it pays to reread the monumental “The ABCs of PCBs” by Tim Gray, Mickey Friedman, and crew. In too many ways it parrots exactly what is going on today. GE’s primary tactic appears to be to say ‘no’ to any proposal that would cost more than a low-level GE vice-president’s annual salary. Failing even then to get its way, the company’s back-up strategy was just to sit and wait and wear down the opposition through endless meetings and hearings. Recommend all read Tim and Mickey’s 115 page ‘Tour de Force’. It’s a bracing reminder of the real nature of the opponent in these matters: http://www.housatonic-river.com/hri-pcb.pdf

  10. Dave Bubriski
    October 13, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    @Tim Gray…..Tim a few days ago you posted a piece by Peter Montague. We all Know that the story doesn’t there. Where can I find the subsequent chapters/articles?

  11. Jim Gleason
    October 13, 2011 at 5:02 am #

    Tricia Blah Blah is spouting her toxic rhetoric as I write this. She’s proud to be a Democrat and is for fair wages for all, yet said in an earlier Democratic primary debate that she is against raising the mini,um wage in MA. sHE ALSO SAYS THAT PEOPLE ARE SICK AND TIRED of lying politicians nationwide. Could she be talking about herself and her handler, Squiggy ruberto? Sounds like it to me.

  12. Anytime
    October 13, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    PCBs=I was at the meeting last night. The people can force huge changes in the ways politicians and ge are handling this which is to ignore tha real problem. Force a cleanup, of the river and of the rest of Pittsfield. TFB= Phony, inept backed by GOB, full of herself, and did i say “phony”? Tell you though, she wins because of the apathy in this dead town.

  13. scott
    October 13, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Here’s some more info on the company we’re allowing to potentially take over our food supply. Another chemical manufactured by MONSANTO is DDT.

    http://www.chemicalindustryarchives.org/dirtysecrets/annistonindepth/wildlife.asp

  14. scott
    October 13, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    All this going on and the BE’s front page story is about a business owner being forced to hire an off duty cop for traffic control. Meanwhile GE is getting away with murder.

  15. Tim Gray
    October 13, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    To answer some questions the Stop and Shop Site has never been investigated despite HRI bringing this up so many times at public meetings. But that has always been the case. There are many sites that DEP and EPA have not followed up on. The fullers earth is buried everywhere. As you probably know homeowners, contractors, and everyone could pick up the fill on the weekend for decades.

    Lets run the homeowner numbers. We were able to get over 300 homes tested. It took hundreds of residents packing auditoriums in Pittsfield. Over 50% had to be cleaned up. With 12,000+ people working at GE for years do you think all the contaminated homes have been found? Sadly the kids growing up on these potential properties get the most potent doses. GE should have been made to test all off the homes.

    GE bought and buried the Wegman study and it was never released.Charlie Fessenden and Ed Bates never got their haunting questions answered. We transcribed and filmed them before one died of leukemia and the other parkinsons disease.

    For years Dr Montague authored Rachel’s Hazardous Waste News. Here is the link to the second half of the article http://www.ejnet.org/rachel/rhwn329.htm

    Here one of our pages that makes interesting reading
    http://www.housatonic-river.com/cmnty2.php

  16. dieta
    October 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    This tenent MountainOne Financial is a banking holding company that already has a presense in Pittsfield and North Berkshire. Please clarify how is this a feather in the cap of North Adams if a company that had its headquarters located in downtown NA and was paying rent and spending lunch money in downtown restaurants now moves south to Pittsfield?A far as the county its a zero-sum gain because no new business or employment was brought into the county the chess pieces were merely moved around.