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Release Date: 02/08/2001
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064

Boston - As part of its $300 million New Bedford Harbor Superfund cleanup, EPA New England is removing PCB-contaminated shoreline sediments from a small residential area in Acushnet, MA. This work is expected to take approximately two months followed by saltmarsh restoration plantings in April 2001.

"Since last summer, EPA has been sampling shoreline and wetland areas and found PCB levels in sediment in the Acushnet area higher than in other locations in the harbor, " said Ira Leighton, EPA New England acting regional administrator. "Because this area borders a residential neighborhood, EPA decided it was important to remove the contaminated sediments as a safeguard to the families living along the shore."

The detailed steps involved in this targeted sediment removal include:

    • installing temporary fencing;
    • monitoring to ensure air quality;
    • installing temporary sand and gravel pathways to allow excavation equipment access to the shoreline;
    • placing excavated sediment into sealed containers;
    • trucking sealed containers from Main Street in Acushnet to Sawyer Street in New Bedford for temporary storage until the first confined disposal facility is built;
    • backfilling and restoring native plantings.
Residents should note that EPA's contractors will be wearing white protective clothing as a precautionary measure to protect them from exposure to contaminated sediments.

EPA is performing this removal as a part of its cleanup plan for upper and lower New Bedford Harbor. The plan calls for the dredging of approximately 200 acres of contaminated sediments and wetlands and isolation of the removed material in shoreline confined disposal facilities (CDFs). Preliminary work involving relocation of three combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, to make way for the planned CDFs is currently underway. Construction of the first CDF is expected to begin later this year and dredging of the harbor will begin in 2003.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund site encompasses all of New Bedford Harbor and parts of Buzzards Bay. The harbor was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the result of past waste disposal practices at two electrical component manufacturing plants. PCB wastes were discharged directly into the harbor as well as indirectly through the city's sewer system.

Fish & lobster from New Bedford Harbor and the Acushnet River Estuary contain high levels of PCBs which can cause illness if eaten regularly. Due to the health risks from eating fish & lobster from the 18,000 acre New Bedford Harbor and the Acushnet River Estuary, the MA Department of Public Health has restricted fishing and lobstering in these areas since 1979. EPA added the harbor to its National Priorities List in 1983, thereby qualifying the harbor for federal Superfund cleanup money. Local residents are reminded that the single biggest risk to human health from the site is from consumption of PCB-contaminated seafood. Pregnant and nursing women and children are especially at risk from consuming PCB-contaminated fish and lobster. Fish and lobster caught in and around New Bedford Harbor should not be eaten.