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Release Date: 03/20/2001
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064

Boston - EPA New England, in partnership with NSTAR, is starting the relocation of thirteen submerged NSTAR power cables in the Acushnet River in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The relocation, which is expected to take approximately six months, is necessary for the safe dredging of contaminated sediments from the area as a part of EPA's $300 million cleanup of the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site. "Relocating the power cables will not only remove an obstacle to dredging the harbor of contaminated sediments, it will also provide area residents with additional and updated power services," said Ira W. Leighton, acting EPA New England administrator. "This is clearly a win-win situation for New Bedford, NSTAR, and EPA. "

"I am encouraged by the progress that is being made on this important project," said Congressman Barney Frank. "I will continue to make securing funding for full completion of the harbor cleanup a high priority."

"Our partnership with EPA benefits area residents both environmentally and electrically," said Brad Cutis, project manager for NSTAR. "We'll be replacing all of our existing underwater cables as we relocate them to accommodate the harbor cleanup. We'll also be installing a new underwater cable capable of carrying 115,000 volts of electricity. This enhancement to our system will further-improve service reliability to the area and increase our capacity to serve New Bedford's growing electrical needs."

"This is clearly an example of the far-reaching benefits of the harbor cleanup project," said New Bedford Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz, Jr. "The dredging will not only result in a cleaner harbor, but also more reliable service from our local utility - NSTAR. I am pleased to see this project move forward."

EPA is relocating power cables that are resting on contaminated sediment as a part of its cleanup of the upper and lower New Bedford Harbor. To do this, sheet pile walls, two outer and one inner, are being driven into the river creating two corridors extending halfway across the river. A trench will be excavated in one corridor while the second corridor will receive the trench's excavated sediment. A cable conduit will be laid along the trench and covered with a one foot- thick protective concrete cap. The inner sheet pile wall then will be removed and the excavated sediment will be leveled out over the conduit. The outer sheet pile walls will be removed once the resuspended sediment has settled. This process then will be repeated in the second half of the river. When the cable conduit is in place, new power cables will be pulled through and activated.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under contract to EPA, manages the daily activities of the New Bedford Harbor Superfund cleanup plan. 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 and 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 and 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.