Removal Begins at the Tel-Electric Dam


Pittsfield, Massachusetts

“Don’t forget your waders. The site is contaminated.”

That was the final word of advice for shooting the Tel-Electric Dam, a run-of-river dam in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for Massachusetts’ Division of Ecological Restoration.

 No problem! But I had to ask what the contamination is behind a dam built beside an electric piano factory. And as it happens, the electric piano factory wasn’t the source of the contamination.

Upstream of the factory, the west branch of the Housatanic River is loaded with PCBs, a legacy of dumping from (oh yes) General Electric. And the Tel-Electric dam served as a trap for sediment containing these PCBs.

In our home state of New York, the lesson was learned in the 1970s: you don’t just tear down a dam with a load of PCBs behind it, lurking in the sediment. In 1973, the Fort Edward dam, which lay below two General Electric factories, was removed, sending thousands of pounds of PCB sediments that had accumulated for years – thanks, GE! — flowing downstream.

Fortunately, the rest of New England learned that lesson as well, and as a result, years of careful planning goes into removing a dam.

In late November of this year, the Tel-Electric dam was breached, and so the on-the-ground work began. SumCo Eco-Contracting is the contractor in these pictures, along with the project designer, Milone & Macbroom.


Environmental services photography is a new branch of construction photography and videography that specializes in the documenting the work of environmental engineers, consultants, contractors, and related fields. Allman Environmental Services Photography is dedciated to documenting the projects that improve the natural world.