Oct 10, 2018

Toxic Chemical Levels in Massachusetts Groundwater

Volatile organic compounds are appearing at above-benchmark levels, but do not yet require action

Volatile organic compounds are appearing at above-benchmark levels, but do not yet require action.
Volatile organic compounds are appearing at above-benchmark levels, but do not yet require action.

The Pittsfield, Mass., city council is demanding answers from Massachusetts state and federal government about toxic chemicals in the city groundwater.

“They need to come to Pittsfield,” said Melissa Mazzeo, councilor at large.

According the The Berkshire Eagle, the city council became aware, after reading a General Electric Co. report, that organic compounds are appearing at above-benchmark levels in the area surrounding two of its "consolidation areas."

Health Director Gina Armstrong told councilors the levels did not rise to where the government would require action, despite them appearing above the benchmark levels. Armstrong believe it is still well below an action level.

The waste sites reside along the Tyler Street extension, near Virginia Avenue. Hazardous waste is stored within insulated tanks at Building 71. Hill 78 houses the less contaminated material in what city council described as an “unlined” storage area.

According to The Berkshire Eagle, “GE had been dumping PCBs into the Housatonic River until it was banned in the 1970s,” and during the cleanup, the company put contaminated materials at two sites near the Pittsfield plant.

The organic compounds that concerned councilors in the company’s report were trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said the inconsistent reports warrant his committee keeping a closer eye on reports. Morandi chairs the Public Health and Safety Committee. He thinks “some things had changed” in between the committee’s review in the spring.

“I think that’s something to have a conversation about,” Morandi said.

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said that although chemicals appeared in the groundwater, that does not impact the city’s drinking water. He said the chemical increases are coming because Hill 78 is an unlined landfill.

“It’s not actually in our drinking water,” Connell said. “Because I had a couple of calls about this.”

City resident Valerie Andersen said it is “really a disgrace” the landfills exist in the first place. She said this is not only a health issue for the children who go to school in the area, but for all who live in Pittsfield.

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