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EPA Announces Additional $6.5 Million for New Bedford Harbor Cleanup

Release Date: 11/06/2002
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1064

NEW BEDFORD –Flanked by federal, state and local officials, the top administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program today announced $6.5 million of additional funding for the cleanup of the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site.

The money, which boosts overall spending at the site to more than $180 million, will help pay for the construction of various facilities that will be used in the massive harbor dredging project, including de-sanding, de-watering and water treatment facilities and a rail spur connecting to the city's redeveloped rail yard. The facilities will be built over the 18 months before dredging begins in 2004.

"The cleanup funds we're providing to New Bedford today, together with our Brownfields grants, will strengthen the city's environmental and economic future," said Marianne Horinko, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, which oversees the Superfund program. "A clean harbor means healthier people eating healthier fish, while the redevelopment of old, abandoned facilities means new jobs and a more robust economy. The big winners today are New Bedford's families, and the people who will live and raise families here in the future."

"This cleanup is another link in the chain of interconnected redevelopment projects currently being advanced by the city and its partners," added New Bedford Mayor Fredrick M. Kalisz Jr., who joined Horinko in announcing the funding at the Waterfront Visitor's Center in New Bedford. "These projects hinge on continued progress towards a clean New Bedford Harbor. I am grateful to EPA for this commitment, and urge them to continue their funding so New Bedford can once again realize the full benefit of a clean harbor."

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 $170 million to plan the cleanup, remove five acres of the most-contaminated sediments from the upper harbor, and begin clearing the way for dredging of about 200 acres of contaminated sediment in the river and harbor, including excavation and restoration of surrounding wetlands and residential properties. The sediment will be processed at a new 4.5-acre dewatering and transfer facility on the harbor's edge and then disposed at an offsite landfill or in one of three confined disposal facilities along the New Bedford shoreline.

The cleanup plan, finalized in 1998 after soliciting extensive public comment, will include the removal of about 200 acres of sediments which is roughly equivalent to 75 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.

In addition to the Superfund work, EPA has spent more than $1.1 million to support Brownfields cleanup and redevelopment in New Bedford, much of it on the city's waterfront. Much of the money has been used for site assessments, including work at the Standard Times property which was recently restored into a new 22-acre, riverfront industrial park.

"Whether its restoring the harbor or revitalizing its shoreline, New Bedford is on the right track to achieving its long-term goal of a flourishing harbor-based economy," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Today's announcement of additional funding, and the administration's commitment to continue funding our needs, is a big step forward for a community whose heritage is its waterfront."