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Anti-PCB dump group asks Mass. DEP for 'any and all' records on dump. The agency's fee is $34K

A lawn sign in Lee, Massachusetts, designed by Reed Anderson of Great Barrington, calls for no local dumps for PCB waste from General Electric.
Nancy Eve Cohen
A lawn sign in Lee, Massachusetts, designed by Reed Anderson of Great Barrington, calls for no local dumps for PCB waste from General Electric.

A group of citizens fighting a toxic waste disposal site in Lee, Massachusetts, said the state Department of Environmental Protection is charging too much to fulfill a public records request.

One member of the Lee Citizens Against the Lee PCB Dump said the DEP is trying to hide information.

"There’s going to be a lot of stuff that they probably don’t want us to see," said Tim Gray, a river advocate. "Including a huge amount of email traffic between everybody and DEP."

In its response to the group, the agency said the fee may be reduced or eliminated if the request were narrowed.

The disposal site is part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup plan to remove PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls from the Housatonic River.

The citizens group requested "any and all" records about the PCB waste dump, including correspondence from or to General Electric.

GE's former Pittsfield plant contaminated the river when the company manufactured electrical transformers from the 1930s up until the 1970s.

The DEP responded saying fulfilling the request would cost $34,350. Gray said that's too much.

In a letter from the agency's Office of General Counsel, Kathleen Delaplain wrote that the agency does not charge for staff time for "straightforward requests that take less than four hours to answer."

The DEP estimated it would take 1,374 hours to complete and it would cost $25 per hour.

Her letter suggested to the group that it narrow its request by limiting the time period or the subjects it covers.

The agency declined to provide an interview, but an emailed statement said, "MassDEP remains ready to work with the requestor to further narrow the scope in order to provide the files needed."

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.

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