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Pittsfield lake now clean enough for recreation

The cleanup of  Silver Lake has been completed, and it will open as a park in Pittsfield.

Stephanie Zollshan /The Berkshire Eagle via Associated Press

The cleanup of Silver Lake has been completed, and it will open as a park in Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD — A lake that has had garbage, sewage, and PCBs dumped in it, that has been the site of two major oil spills, and that once caught fire is now considered clean enough for some recreational activities.

Workers capped major PCB contamination in Silver Lake’s bottom last fall, one of the last procedures in a 16-year effort to clean the 26-acre lake and open it to boating, ice skating, and catch-and-release fishing.

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Mayor Daniel Bianchi of Pittsfield remembers Silver Lake not freezing in the winter and even changing colors from time to time.

‘‘I think it’s absolutely wonderful to have a nice lake in the middle of the city,’’ Bianchi told the Berkshire Eagle.

Levels of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are undetectable in the water, although the sunfish, carp, and largemouth bass found in the lake have high levels of the suspected carcinogen and are not suitable to eat, said David Dickerson, the Environmental Protection Agency’s project manager for Silver Lake.

The remaining PCBs have been found only in sediment since the lake bottom was capped, Dickerson said.

Not everyone is convinced that the lake is safe. Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said that she does not believe the capping project will work and that she would not let her children boat on the lake.

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