GE/PCB Timeline



General Electric (GE) begins operation in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.


GE begins using Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), for transformer manufacturing and repairs. PCBs entered the river and Silver Lake until 1977.


City of Pittsfield and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers straighten (channelize) the river in Pittsfield. Eleven former oxbows are filled in with debris that was later discovered to contain PCBs.


The Federal Clean Water Act is passed which prohibits the dumping of wastes into water sources.


State of Connecticut issues a fish consumption advisory on most of the Housatonic River.


Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) issued "fish consumption" warnings on the Housatonic due to PCB contamination from Dalton to the Connecticut state line. This was later amended to include frogs and turtles.


Due to suspected PCB contamination, the U.S. EPA issued a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Permit to the GE-Pittsfield facility. Subsequent appeals and related modifications delay implantation.


The EPA RCRA Corrective Action Permit became effective and included the 254-acre facility, some former fill oxbows, Silver Lake, the Housatonic River and its floodplains and soils. Due to this permit, GE performed several investigations and short-term cleanups.


EPA proposed the PCB contaminated site to be added to the Superfund National Priorities List. Federal, and State agencies and GE enter into negotiations to reach a settlement. Community groups are actively involved in the process.


Federal and State agencies, GE, and the City of Pittsfield reach a tentative agreement in principle related to the cleanup. Termed the "Consent Decree," it follows Superfund Site procedures, but the area is not designated a Superfund Site.


Massachusetts DPH issues "duck consumption" warnings on the Housatonic due to PCB contamination. The Consent Decree is filed in federal court.











The Consent Decree is approved by the federal court. Specifics of the plan call for remediation of the river and floodplain, oxbows, Silver Lake and residential properties affected by PCB contamination. The river and floodplain is divided into three segments:

  1. First one-half mile: from Newell Street downstream to Lyman Street. GE conducts cleanup under EPA supervision.
  2. Next 1.5-miles: Lyman Street, downstream to confluence with Housatonic Main Stem below Fred Gardner Park.
  3. Rest of River: from Fred Gardner Park, which is the confluence of the Main Stem and the East Branch, downstream into Connecticut. The specifics on the extent of this remediation will be determined at a future date.

 Other Components of Consent Decree:

  • Establish the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA) whose task it is to develop reuse of the remediated sites of the GE buildings (Brownfield development).
  • Remediate Silver Lake. Current plan is to "cap" the lake bottom with sand.
  • Cleanup and restoration of the former oxbows.
  • Cleanup of Allendale School yard and residential areas in the neighborhood. (GE gives soil to the school and area residents. This soil is found to be contaminated with PCBs. Residential and school yard property are cleaned to an average of 2 ppm left in the soil.)
  • Two areas on GE property are allowed to become storage for PCB contaminated soil. One of these sites is called Hill 78.
  • A 15 million dollar fine is established as compensation for river natural resource damages (NRD). A state/federal Trustee board is established to oversee the distribution of this fund for both Massachusetts and Connecticut.


  • Cleanup of the first one-half mile is completed in September; 11,800 cubic yards of contaminated soil is removed using a "dry excavation" technique. Adjacent to GE Building #68, the average PCB concentration is 1,534 parts per million (ppm) in the river soil, and 5,896 ppm in the riverbank. EPA's acceptable maximum "safe" limits are 2 ppm for direct contact. The majority of the material is disposed at the on-plant consolidation areas at the GE facililty.

  • Phase II for the 1.5 mile segment is begun.


  • A Human Health Risk Assessment study (a comprehensive research study on the effects of PCBs on humans) is conducted by EPA and consultants and reviewed by a national peer review committee.
  • The Natural Resource Damages Trustees (NRD Trustees) is formed.


An Ecological Risk Assessment study (a comprehensive research study on the effects of PCBs on the environment) conducted by EPA and consultants is completed and peer reviewed.


  • Transfer of the first section of GE redevelopment site property is turned over to PEDA in May. Approximately one-half of the 52-acre site is transferred.
  • October, GE submits Interim Media Protection Goals (IMPG) proposal to EPA which establishes degree of PCB removal for Rest of River (ROR). The Consent Decree mandates that the IMPG use Risk Assessment data to determine safe baseline limits for remaining PCBs. EPA responds that the GE IMPG report is not acceptable due to less than acceptable baseline standards.
  • While beginning the capping of a previously filled-in oxbow at Newell Street in Pittsfield, multiple old drums (which were mostly empty) were discovered along with various PCB related debris. After discussions, GE agreed to remove all discovered drums and debris before capping the area.
  • Pittsfield City Council, Allendale School Teachers and residents of Allendale School area hold meetings to request the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to test air quality for PCBs. Testing program begins in December.


  • Phase II, the one-and-one-half-mile section which ends at Fred Gardner Park is completed in early December. EPA performed the removal using two "dry excavation" techniques.  One was the sheetpile coffer dam technique used in Phase I.  The other, due to shallow bedrock, was constructing a temporary river dam, which was installed approximately 1,400 feet downstream from the Lyman Street Bridge.  The river was then diverted into two 54-inch pipes which extended ~ 3.500 feet.
  • About 91,700 cubic yards of contaminated sediment and riverbank material is removed and disposed of at the on-plant consolidation areas and the remainder of the material is disposed of at licensed off-site disposal facilities.
  • EPA conducts work on a cost-sharing basis with GE. The average concentration of PCB in sediment down to one foot is found to be 21 ppm, and the average concentration of PCBs in deeper soil is 29 ppm. The riverbank PCB concentration in the top foot of sill is about 23 ppm, and in the top 3 feet is 40ppm.
  • The cost of the one-and-one-half mile reach cleanup, excluding indirect overhead-type costs, is estimated at $84,000,000.
  • GE releases cost figures of $432.6 million spent on remediation to date.


  • GE releases a "Corrective Measures Study" (CMS) which outlines its proposal for determining the degree and location of remediation for the "Rest of River" (ROR).
  • The public offers its comments on this proposal.
  • EPA responds to the proposal and to public comments and requires that GE revise its plan and in particular requires GE to address more than 150 inadequacies in its report.


  • GE releases a "Response to EPA’s Interim Comments on CMS" which outlines GE’s updated remediation proposal.


  • In January after the public comment period and internal EPA review, EPA directs GE to create a more comprehensive remediation plan.
  • In October GE releases the updated CMS for public and EPA review.
  • GE states that they have spent 1 billion dollars and removed 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.


  • EPA conducts three workshops on its studies on PCBs and the river.
  • EPA National Remedy Review Board meets in July to establish EPA recommendations. Target for public release scheduled for fall 2011.
  • State of Massachusetts expresses concerns on remediation recommendations. A series of closed door sessions begin between EPA and Connecticut and Massachusetts state agencies.


  • EPA is prepared to release its remediation recommendations. GE requests meetings with EPA to discuss these recommendations ‘behind closed doors.’
  • In August EPA releases its Remedy Review Board documentations which reviews its discussions and research.


  • EPA releases its remediation plan to GE and to the public in June and conducts two public meetings to discuss the plan and respond to public questions.
  • Public hearing held in September with public written comments deadline in October.


  • EPA reviews comments and conducts closed door meetings with GE and Massachusetts state representatives.  In September, EPA releases its Intended Final Decision for Remediation

  •  October, GE sends letter to EPA “Notice of Dispute regarding the Intended Final Decision.”

  • EPA and GE again go into closed door discussions.


  • In January, GE releases its Statement of Position of GE which calls the EPA plan arbitrary and capricious.  
  •  EPA in February, releases its final "Statement of Position.
  •  In March, GE submits its response which continues to object to the plan.  The case goes to the EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). EPA will decide to pursue their submitted plan or modify it.
  • GE announces that it will move its World headquarters to Boston.
  • October, EPA releases its ‘Final Permit Modification for Cleanup of Housatonic River “Rest of River.”
  •  Parties can appeal this permit within 30 days. GE and public can appeal.
  • EPA has the option of proceeding with remediation following their Final Permit Modification plan.
  • If GE appeal is denied, GE must pay EPA costs.

For more detailed information of the GE/PCB remediation, go to:

November 2016



EPA is prepared to release their remediation recommendations. GE                                       requests meetings with EPA to discuss these recommendations.