BEAT Receives $35,682 Grant From Massachusetts Environmental Trust!

Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Inc. (Pittsfield) – $35,682 has been awarded to develop a program for training citizen scientists to survey stormwater outfalls during dry weather conditions.

Photo: Sale of license plates such as this fund the Massachusetts Environmental Trust program

The sale of license plates such as the one pictured here fund the program that is funding BEAT.

The proponents will create a digital survey form for mobile phones that can be used in the field and take photos that will be geocoded and downloaded at the end of the survey.

A GIS layer will be created with attached photos and forms documenting the size, material and condition of the pipe, and note any problems associated with each outfall.

When dry weather flows are found, trained personnel will sample the flows and the samples will be tested by a certified lab and by Berkshire Community College students for a new water quality course.
Read more.


ANNOUNCEMENT!  No Fracked Gas In Mass is now a program of Berkshire Environmental Action Team!

logo of No Fracked Gas In MassBerkshire Environmental Action Team is very pleased to announce that No Fracked Gas In Mass is now a program of BEAT. Rose Wessel’s organization and website, No Fracked Gas In Mass and NoFrackedGasInMass.org, have been the face of the grassroots opposition to the proposed natural gas pipeline projects in our area since early in 2014, and they will continue to focus on this issue until these projects are stopped. Donations to No Fracked Gas In Mass are always welcome and will continue to support Rose Wessel’s ongoing and tireless work in opposing the pipeline. Welcome aboard Rose and No Fracked Gas In Mass!

Proposed pipeline is a jobs killer.

Despite what those in the natural gas industry claim, the construction of a natural gas pipeline across Massachusetts would kill jobs here in our own state.  One of Massachusetts’ fastest growing industries is the clean energy industry, which includes renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Photo of barn with solar panes, Indian Line Farm, South Egremont, MA

Indian Line Farm, South Egremont, MA Photo by Berkshire Photovoltaic Services (BPVS)

In Massachusetts, at the end of 2014, clean energy employed 88,372 people according to a report by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.  This is as many people as are working in the insurance industry here; an industry universally recognized as one of our leading industries. The clean energy industry employs 2.4% of all of our workers.  There are 5,985 clean energy businesses in our state.  Clean energy jobs account for 2.5% of the Massachusetts gross state product (GSP).  And these numbers are growing fast.  The number of jobs in the industry grew by 10.5% from 2013 to 2014. This was the third year in a row of double-digit growth, resulting in a 47% increase over the past 4 years. Projections are for the clean energy industry to add another 11,700 jobs in 2015, for a 13.3% annual growth rate. (read more)

Three years ago, GE and the EPA finished their “cleanup” of a two-mile stretch of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield. What many people didn’t know is that two very contaminated areas, Silver Lake and Unkamet Brook, are upstream of this part of the river, and for three years have been bringing more PCBs into the already-“cleaned”

Photo of equipment in Unkamet Brook

Work in Unkamet Brook

Housatonic. But finally, Unkamet Brook is being dealt with.  (Silver Lake wasn’t cleaned.  It was capped.)  This is the reason for the big equipment you may see along Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield. Why didn’t the cleanup start with the highly polluted upstream areas?  There hasn’t been a good answer to this question.

In part, the new work includes removing two acres of the invasive wetland plant phragmites, re-routing the brook so that it no longer runs through the old GE landfill, and capping 7 acres of the former landfill. BEAT has real issues with moving the brook and just capping the landfill that it ran through. (read more)

Berkshire Environmental Team's volunteers having fun at the cleanup. It's not all hard work.

It’s not all hard work.

May 16 was Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s first river cleanup of the year.  The cleanup was a joint effort of BEAT and the Housatonic Valley Association. Six teams of volunteers, one in canoes, hauled trash from the East Branch of the river, from Peck’s Brook along Pecks Road, from the Linden Street area, and from the area around Wahconah Park.   A very big thank you to Pine Cone Hill for providing a barbecue lunch for our hungry volunteers after the cleanup, and to Panera’s in Pittsfield for providing the snacks that got us started at the beginning of the day. And thank you to the City of Pittsfield for once again agreeing to pick up the mountains of trash our volunteers piled up along the river. Join us for our next river cleanup, scheduled for August 8, 9am at Fred Garner Park in Pittsfield. (Read more)

BEAT opposes proposed natural gas pipeline.

Pipeline presentation in Cummington, MA by Berkshire Environmental Action Team's Bruce Winn

Pipeline presentation in Cummington, MA

BEAT learned early about the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s proposal to build a natural gas pipeline across Massachusetts from Richmond to Dracut. We were the first to speak out publicly, and have met with local, county, state, and federal representatives, and have consulted with state and national environmental and legal organizations. We believe that there is no need for this pipeline, that most of the natural gas coming through this pipeline will be exported to Europe and/or Asia, and that there are safer, greener, and less costly alternatives that are being ignored by industry and industry-friendly regulators.

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped cleanup the river!

Thank you all for helping cleanup the river again this year! BEAT partnered with the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) to organize several Housatonic River cleanups for 2013. Two of the […]

The River-Cleanup Crew

Thank you all for helping clean up the river again this year! Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) partnered with the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) to organize several Housatonic River cleanups for 2013. It’s amazing how much “stuff” we pull out of the river, and it’s equally amazing how much fun we have doing it.  Join us for the next clean up.  We’d love to meet you.

Improving Stream Crossings workshops well attended

A washed out stream crossing.

A washed-out stream crossing

Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) was one of many partners who came together, led by Julia Blatt of Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, to organize three Improving Stream Crossings workshops for western Massachusetts. These workshops were very well attended. Participants included representatives from municipal highway departments, planning and DPW staff, municipal officials, conservation commissioners, engineering consultants, regional planning staff, state agency staff, environmental organization staff, volunteers, and others with an interest in improving stream crossings.

Connecting for Wildlife

Connecting for Wildlife, funded by the William P Wharton Trust, strives to improve habitat connectivity and motorist safety in Western Massachusetts.

Roads don’t have to be this dangerous for wildlife.

 BEAT’s Connecting for Wildlife program improves habitat connectivity and motorist safety in Western Massachusetts. Roads represent a significant barrier to wildlife movement by subdividing the landscape and fragmenting and degrading habitat. Roadways and traffic are a major source of wildlife mortality. To address this issue Berkshire Environmental Action Team collaborates with transportation planners, biologists, universities, and locals to identify, survey, and analyze road segments within wildlife corridors (linkage zones).

Thank You to First Church and to All the Very Talented Musicians!

Event poster.  Beats for BEAT.

First Church says, “This Is Our Response To Violence.”

On Sunday, June 2, at 3pm, The First Church of Pittsfield hosted an afternoon of blues, jazz, rock and soul music to benefit Berkshire Environmental Action Team. The theme for the day was “This Is Our Reply To Violence.”  We can’t thank Pastor James Lumsden and all of the other musicians enough for providing such an uplifting, moving, and rousing event, and for helping BEAT in the process.

BEAT’s Wetlands Protection Act Tutorial

Housatonic River scene

The Wetland Protection Act protects one of our county’s most valuable resources.

Wetlands are valuable resources, and one of the most useful tools we have for protecting those resources is the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. Here is Berkshire Environmental Action Team’s tutorial to help you understand this important law and how citizens can interact with their local Conservation Commissions.


VICTORY! BEAT Gets State To Update Its Stormwater Calculations

A washed out stream.

Not just an environmental issue, but a public safety issue as well.

Pressure from BEAT has resulted in the state updating its stormwater calculations in accord with climate change. This will make all of our road crossings safer during and after storms. Massachusetts was the last (50th) state to update these calculations.


GE Completes Vernal Pool Survey. Results Say PCB Remediation Works.

Workers documenting life in the vernal pool

Documenting a successful remediation.

As part of its campaign to evade its responsibility to clean its PCBs from the Housatonic River, GE has been arguing for years that any remediation of vernal pools would destroy those ecosystems.  A new study, conducted by GE and its contractors, and overseen by the EPA, shows that the Pittsfield vernal pool remediation was a huge success.  Berkshire Environmental Action Team is pushing for remediation of the remaining vernal pools along the river.

Puppets Involve Students in Environmental Stewardship

 Doctor Augie's puppet theater.

Letting puppets tell the environmental story.

Puppets are a great way to engage people in learning about the environment. BEAT has teamed up with Dr. Augies under a grant under a grant from the Berkshire Environmental Endowment, a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, to bring fantastic puppet theater to area schools. BEAT and Dr. Augies are working with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the City of Pittsfield’s Department of Public Services, and with a student from Berkshire Community College’s Environmental Sciences Department to create puppet shows focusing on water quality and what people can do to protect water in their community.

GE Video Debunked By BEAT

Before and after images of a remediated vernal pool

The vernal pool: Before and After.

What’s the real scoop on the claims being made by GE in its attempt to avoid its responsibility? We at BEAT have found ourselves responding to the same question many times. Which of the PCB cleanup solutions for the Housatonic River does BEAT support? The concern has been generated by the distribution by GE of a 25-minute video that presents GE’s view on the subject. The video has been shown on television and has been mailed to residents of Berkshire County. We welcome this increased concern and interest, especially if people look farther than the video for answers to a very important question. Here is BEAT’s reply to GE’s video.

Troubled Bridge Over Troubled Water

Collapsed bridge over the Housatonic River

Collapsed bridge.

Although much of the damage caused by Hurricane Irene last fall was immediately apparent, one of the storm’s victim’s was hidden from view in a secluded area of Pittsfield near New Lenox Road. An old metal bridge that seemed to lead from nowhere to nowhere fell into the Housatonic River generating headaches, expenses, and work.

Pittsfield Fined for Bright Green into the Housatonic River

A bright green goo flows into the Housatonic River.

Green goo flows into the river

BEAT received an email with a photograph showing a bright green liquid flowing into the Housatonic River at the Elm Street bridge in Pittsfield.  The question was, who was responsible, and what could be done.  Read the story here.