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EPA Calms City Council's Concerns Over Hill 78, Building 71
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
02:40AM / Wednesday, February 20, 2019
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Dean Tagliaferro alleviated many of the city councilor's concerns with the ongoing monitoring at the sites.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The nerves of some city councilors were put at ease Tuesday after a review of the latest monitoring tests at Hill 78 and Building 71.
 
The council raised a stink in October over the toxic waste sites near Allendale School after reviewing the spring data that revealed two wells tested above benchmarks. The council called for increased monitoring and communication.
 
After meeting with Dean Tagliaferro on Tuesday, those concerns were quelled when he reported that the two wells above benchmarks have done so historically but pose no health concerns. He said they are not near any buildings or drinking water sources and the benchmarks are just a base numbers used to compare from year to year.
 
"It doesn't look like an increasing trend, which is good," Tagliaferro said.
 
Tagliaferro and two others from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were joined by representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the local Board of Health for a discussion on the data per the request of the City Council. 
 
The ongoing monitoring in the area of the two GE landfills has been ongoing for two decades and Tagliaferro said none of the tests have been close to the actionable levels. There are three inspections done twice a year — a physical inspection of the site, air testing, and groundwater tests.
 
"We think it is pretty stable right now and there are no changes that need to be made," Tagliaferro said.
 
Hill 78 sits on six acres of land and was originally a landfill for General Electric. During the cleanup, material was added to that landfill and it was capped in 2009. Building 71 sits on 4.4 acres and was created for that material. It was capped in 2006.
 
The most recent tests were completed in October. During a physical inspection last year GE was told to reseal and repair fissures in an access road to the south of the property, Tagliaferro said, and to fill in a dozen woodchuck holes, and has GE increasing the frequency of inspections of the leachate handling system. 
 
The last of those was recommended after alarms were found to have been malfunctioning and while GE replaced them, Tagliaferro said there was no follow up to ensure the new alarms were working properly. He said GE increased the inspection of that equipment in 2019 to lower the potential gaps in time from when a piece of equipment fails and it is discovered.
 
In the past, Tagliaferro said there had been some issues with erosion and washouts but new piping was put in and there haven't been any required repairs to the drainage system in years.
 
As for air monitoring, Tagliaferro said the results are still 10 times below the action level. Meanwhile, tests at the school were even less.
 
For groundwater, Tagliaferro said there are 16 wells tested biannually, three of which are between the landfills and Allendale School. He said there were no PCBs in any of the wells in the fall but there were traces of PCE and TCE. Tagliaferro again said none of those wells tests approached actionable levels of the chemicals.
 
The concern with the compound PCE (perchloroethylene) usually found in dry cleaning and the degreasing solvent TCE (trichloroethylene) is that they vaporize into the air and eventually get trapped in buildings. He said very few of the wells are close to buildings, alleviating any concern there. 
 
He said the groundwater tests tend to have more variations from test to test and from season to season. But, he doesn't have any concerns with the numbers.
 
"It is not really getting worse, groundwater is just highly variable," Tagliaferro said.
 
At Allendale School, which is the biggest concern for councilors, Tagliaferro said throughout the history of the testing there was only one positive finding in one of the three wells closest to the school. That finding of PCE was "extremely low," he said, and there was no finding in the latest test. He added that the water flows away from the school.
 
The City Council's Public Health and Safety Committee was happy with those results. But, members still want increased communication. The council discussed the best timeliness with Tagliaferro for holding similar meetings in the future to ensure all of the results are in. 
 
"It is good that we have a city council subcommittee meeting to have this conversation," said City Councilor Peter Marchetti. 
 
Marchetti said he would also like the meeting to be "more informative."
 
The meetings had been held annually at Allendale School and were filled with parents concerned about their children's well-being. However, Tuesday's meeting was very lightly attended.

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