Starting on March 21st Denny Alsop, a 69-year old member of Housatonic River Initiative and a Berkshire county grandfather and canoe builder, will set out, for the second time in his life, on a month-long canoe canoe trip across Massachusetts to bring attention to the importance of clean water for the Commonwealth.
“I last made this journey in 1988 and many of the rivers I plan to travel are cleaner now than they were a generation ago,” said Alsop. “But there is still much more that needs to be done to make every river swimmable and fishable and to make sure every community's drinking water is safe and that’s why I’m making this journey again.”
For the first week, Alsop will be on his home river, the Housatonic. In 1988, Alsop called the Housatonic, ‘A hidden treasure within the Berkshires, the most beautiful river I have seen’, in crossing Massachusetts.
The Housatonic has been one of the most contaminated waterways in Massachusetts. For more than 40 years, GE, formerly known as General Electric, discharged PCBs into the Housatonic, chemicals that are known to cause serious cognitive and developmental problems. Thanks in part to persistent activism by the community, the PCB contamination in the first mile and a half of the Housatonic has now been remediated. Alsop hopes that his trip he can help raise awareness to ensure the remainder of the river gets cleaned up as well.
“Unfortunately, negotiations with GE have hollowed out EPA’s cleanup plan, so it is now a fraction of what the agency was considering previously” said Tim Gray, director of the Housatonic River Initiative. “Our river, and future generations, deserve better.”
Alsop hopes his journey strengthens efforts to prevent toxic landfills containing contaminated sediment and soil from being created along the river. By focusing attention on the successful cleanup and restoration of the first mile and a half of the Housatonic, Alsop hopes to emphasize that an aggressive campaign to remove toxins and restore a river is not only theoretically possible but, in a relatively short time, has in fact been accomplished.
Throughout his tour across the state, Alsop will stress that the need for clean water is not a regional issue. PCB contamination is a global problem and Alsop plans to promote the message that clean water, which is in increasingly short supply, is essential for life on earth, and must be safeguarded.