EPA Cleanups: GE-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site

Allendale School of the GE-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site

Overview of the Allendale School

The Allendale School Property is located at 180 Connecticut Avenue in Pittsfield, to the north of the GE facility across the Tyler Street Extension, and is bordered on the other three sides by residential areas. The school building occupies approximately 40,000 square feet within a property of approximately 12 acres in size. In 1991, a 2-foot soil cap (with geotextile) was placed over much of the playground area by GE. In 1998, some soil outside the existing cap was found to contain PCBs exceeding 2 ppm and was also removed by GE.

How did this property get contaminated?

The Allendale School property was originally part of the 1,250-acre Allen Farm that was used to breed horses. In 1950, the parcel upon which the school sits was donated to the City of Pittsfield for use as a school.

At the time of the school's construction in 1950, GE and the City entered into an agreement under which the City was allowed to remove soil from GE property for use as fill material at the school grounds. The fill material placed on the school property originated from the Hill 78 Area, which is located south of the school property, across Tyler Street Extension.

When did people raise questions about PCBs there?

Concerns regarding the potential presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at the school property were initially raised in the 1980s during the construction of the Pittsfield Generating Company facility, which is located at the Hill 78 area. Because PCBs were present at the Hill 78 Area, it was recognized that PCBs could also be in the fill at the Allendale School property.

When did sampling begin?

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) conducted soil sampling at the Allendale School property in January 1990 and detected PCBs. At MA DEP's request, GE then conducted additional soil sampling at the Allendale School property between April and September 1990 to characterize the extent of PCBs at the property.

In 1991, in response to the MA DEP and GE soil sampling results, GE conducted an evaluation of various potential remedial options for the Allendale School property, and MA DEP selected a capping option as a Short-Term Measure for the property. In accordance with MA DEP's approval, GE then installed a 2-foot soil cap (with geotextile) over much of the playground area. In addition, in 1998, some soil in the top three feet outside the existing soil cap was found to contain PCBs at concentrations exceeding 2 parts per million (ppm), and was removed by GE.

When did EPA get involved?

In October 1998, EPA, with the United States Department of Justice, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of Connecticut, the City of Pittsfield and State and Federal Natural Resource Trustees, reached an agreement-in-principle with GE that included a comprehensive cleanup of the overall GE-Pittsfield Housatonic River Site, including additional remediation activities at the Allendale School property. That agreement was memorialized in a Consent Decree that was lodged in Federal Court in October 1999 and became effective in October 2000.

Cleanup work to date

1999: In the Spring of 1999, in accordance with the agreement-in-principle, GE performed additional investigations at the Allendale School property to further characterize the horizontal and vertical extent of PCB contamination. Results of the investigations were used to develop a detailed design for cleanup.

That July, GE, pursuant to the Consent Decree, began a removal action for the Allendale School Property pursuant to an Action Memorandum issued by EPA on July 12, 1999. The removal action was conducted from July through November 1999 and consisted of the removal and disposal of approximately 41,300 cubic yards of material.

GE's restoration activities included: backfilling with clean soil, placement of topsoil and grass sod, reassembly of an existing play set, installation of a soccer field and two baseball fields, construction of a walking track, and installation of a paracourse system, as well as new asphalt. Restoration also included planting new shrubs and trees.

Temporary stockpiling of the approximately 41,300 cubic yards of material was necessary because at the time of soil removal activities, the Consent Decree was not in effect, and GE's On-Plant Consolidation Areas (OPCAs) were not yet approved. The soil with PCBs less than 50 ppm were stockpiled within the footprint of the Hill 78 OPCA. The material was placed and then temporarily capped in a manner consistent with the proposed plan for the Hill 78 OPCA. Soils with PCBs greater than 50 ppm were temporality stockpiled on GE property, and then, after the Consent Decree was agreed to, the soils were transported to the Building 71 OPCA for permanent disposal.

After completion of the excavation and backfilling activities, GE conducted a thorough cleaning of the inside of the school building. The cleaning was completed prior to the beginning of the new school year and included washing all interior walls and ledges, student's desks, and interior windows and frames. All bathrooms were cleaned, vinyl floors were stripped and refinished, carpets were cleaned, and all heating and air conditioning vents were cleaned and filters replaced.

2000: On January 20, 2000, a pre-certification inspection was conducted by representatives of GE, EPA and MA DEP. On February 18, 2000, GE submitted a Final Completion Report for the Allendale School Removal Action. EPA approved the Final Completion Report and issued a Certificate of Completion on July 17, 2000.

2005: In December 2005, EPA initiated air sampling for PCBs at two locations on the school property, with samples coordinated to run concurrently with perimeter air sampling being conducted by GE at the OPCAs. View EPA's air monitoring data for the Allendale School.

2007-2008: In December 2007 and January 2008, GE conducted supplemental removal activities in a wetland located in the southeastern corner of the school property. This removal was based on new data collected by EPA. Approximately 1,700 cubic yards of soil were removed and transported to the Hill 78 OPCA, and the area was backfilled with clean soil and restored. The 1,700 cubic yards of material combined with the 41,300 cubic yards of material excavated and removed in 1999 results in a total of 43,000 cubic yards of material removed from the school property pursuant to the Consent Decree.

As a result of the cleanup under the Consent Decree, there are no use or soil handling restrictions on the school property. GE completed their post-removal site control activities in 2000 and has no further inspection or maintenance requirements.

EPA continues to conduct periodic air sampling at the Allendale School property.