RCRA Facilities Investigation of GE Pittsfield PCB Contamination of the Housatonic River

LOCATION: Pittsfield, MA

RCRA Facilities Investigation of GE Pittsfield PCB Contamination of the Housatonic River

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1 and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under contract to Weston Solutions, Inc.


  • Avatar was awarded a 5 year, $25M prime contract in September 2014 for Technical Assistance and Oversight by CENAE. Contract No. W912WJ-14-D-0003
  • Scope of work includes technical assistance to CENAE and USEPA in fulfilling the governments responsibilities for response actions at the GE-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site and oversight of GE response actions.

“There is no question that the development of the assessment (HHRA) to its present stage represents an enormous task drawing on the diverse talents of many individuals. I commend the participants for their efforts. They have prepared an impressive work product.” — Roger O. McClellan (
DABT, President Emeritus
 – Chemical Industry Institute
 of Toxicology)

GE Pittsfield PCB Contamination of the Housatonic River


Avatar has worked over 15 years under multiple contracts at the Housatonic River. Avatar was involved in the site investigative process in a wide variety of activities including Site investigations, regulatory agency negotiations, HHRA, ERA, Community and Public Involvement, and Peer Review support.

Historically, Avatar was instrumental in the overall planning process and the implementation of the effort that collected, processed, and analyzed over 10,000 surface water, sediment, soil, and biological tissue samples. Avatar scientists coordinated and provided oversight for numerous field and laboratory studies conducted by subcontractors, research institutions and other government agencies. Avatar risk assessors and toxicologists evaluated PCB and dioxin-like PCB congener risk resulting from contamination along a 130-mile stretch of the Housatonic River south of Pittsfield, MA to Long Island Sound.

  • Provided documentation that allowed the various federal and state agencies to eliminate 180 properties from further evaluation, saving significant time and money.
  • Developed a computerized risk assessment program which reduced the time and cost for completing these assessments by roughly 30%.
  • Developed an evaluation of potential risks from turtle and frog consumption that allowed regulatory agencies to forego an expensive biota sampling effort saving the project over $50K in sampling and analysis costs.
  • Employed innovative approaches such as Monte Carlo analysis, Probability Bounds analysis, and geostatistical averaging techniques that precluded overly conservative evaluations.
  • Ecological risk assessment included in situ mussel toxicity studies and sediment triad studies; amphibian reproduction and development evaluations; mink reproduction and development studies; and sensitive community identifications and numerous tissue residue evaluations.
  • Fish toxicity studies using egg injection techniques, biomarker monitoring, and multi-generational effects analysis were also used. All studies were incorporated into the final ecological risk assessment.
Avatar Environmental Pittsfield, MA

Under the new contract Avatar performs the following activities:

  • Oversight of all aspects of GE’s O&M activities including inspections, monitoring and maintenance in and out of the river to ensure all performance goals are met.  The items that are being inspected and maintained include engineered barriers, re-vegetation (trees, shrubs, presence of invasive species), integrity of soil and riprap, articulated concrete blocks, ancillary items (retaining walls, guardrails and fencing), and Silver Lake Cap monitoring. 
  • Oversight of corrective actions is performed including re-vegetation efforts, invasive species control efforts, soil/riprap erosion repairs, and upcoming additional cap material placement at Silver Lake.
  • Avatar reviewed the construction work plans and is providing oversight of GE remedial actions to clean up Unkamet Brook, a major tributary to the Housatonic River. The work includes a temporary brook diversion system, sediment/soil removal and restoration activities, offsite disposal, surface water sampling, turbidity, PCB and particulate air monitoringSome of the areas being monitored are natural resource restoration/enhancement areas, which require coordination with the Trustees (MassDEP and USFWS).
  • EPA Region 1 issued a Statement of Basis for the Rest of River (RoR) (~125 miles of river starting at the confluence of the east and west branches) in June 2014. Avatar is supporting EPA by assisting in preparing responses to comments received on the proposed remedy. Organized 800+ comments to the Statement of Basis (Proposed Plan) and Draft Modification to the Reissued RCRA Permit. Negotiated and awarded 5+ subcontracts for technical expert input to responses. As part of the response to comments on the Statement of Basis for the Rest of River, Avatar reviewed, updated and revised the life cycle cost estimates for the alternatives evaluated during the Corrective Measures Study to include capital and O&M costs.
  • Avatar is managing a 1GB environmental database with 1M+ analytical results from 75,000 locations that links directly to a GIS for mapping and data analysis. This data management system includes all data collected over the past 15 years. New data from GE as well as split sample results are continually added to the system.