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EPA to Begin Dredging Portion of New Bedford Harbor Work Will Allow Construction of Cleanup Facility

Release Date: 08/21/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that next week it will begin dredging a portion of New Bedford Harbor in the vicinity of the Herman Melville Shipyard. The work, expected to last four to six weeks, is a step towards the full-scale cleanup of contaminated sediments from the harbor in 2004.

The dredging of an estimated 4,500 cubic yards of PCB contaminated sediments will allow for the relocation of Packer Marine, a marine transport company based in New Bedford Harbor. Packer is being relocated in order to create space for the construction of a sediment dewatering and transfer facility that is key for the full-scale cleanup of the harbor.

The PCB-contaminated sediments dredged in the current project will be stored at EPA's Sawyer Street facility until the dewatering facility is complete, and then processed with the rest of the sediments dredged during the full-scale cleanup.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund site includes all of New Bedford Harbor and parts of the Acushnet River and Buzzards Bay. The harbor was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the result of past waste disposal practices at two electrical component manufacturing plants, one on the Acushnet River, the second on the outer harbor. PCB wastes were discharged directly into the harbor, as well as indirectly through the city's sewer system. EPA added the harbor to its National Priorities List (commonly known as the Superfund) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

EPA has already spent over $180 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Fifteen acres of the most highly contaminated areas of the harbor have been cleaned up and the remaining 240 acres of contaminated sediment, including surrounding wetlands and residential properties, will be processed at the new 4.5-acre shoreline and transfer facility. The sediment will be dewatered at this facility and then disposed at an offsite landfill or in one of three confined disposal facilities along the New Bedford shoreline. An estimated 880,000 cubic yards of sediments are slated to be removed, roughly equivalent to 125 football fields each filled three feet deep.

Fish, lobster and other seafood from New Bedford Harbor and the Acushnet River contain high levels of PCBs which can cause illness if eaten regularly. In 1979, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued restrictions on fishing and lobstering based on health risks from eating fish and lobster from the 18,000-acre New Bedford Harbor and Acushnet River estuary.