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EPA Awards Grant to New Bedford Community Group

Release Date: 09/19/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has awarded the Hands Across the River Coalition (HARC) an additional $10,000 Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) for a total of $90,000 awarded to the organization over three years.

Recognizing the importance of community involvement and the need for citizens living near a Superfund site to be well informed, Technical Assistance Grants provide funds for qualified citizen's groups affected by a Superfund site to hire independent technical advisors to help them understand existing information about the site or information developed during the Superfund cleanup process.

The Hands Across the River Coalition has used its TAG money to hire a technical advisor and plans on disseminating information via press conferences, public meetings, newsletters and through its education/information center which is opened Monday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm and Saturdays 9 am - 12 pm at 222 Union Street, Room 202. Hands Across the River holds monthly meetings the last Wednesday of every month at 7 pm at its information center.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund cleanup plan calls for the dredging, dewatering and off-site disposal of approximately 200 acres of contaminated sediments and wetlands. Three shoreline confined disposal facilities (CDFs) may be constructed in the future to permanently contain some of the contaminated sediment as well. Construction of the waterfront bulkheads for the dewatering facility is expected to begin this summer and dredging of the harbor is scheduled to begin in late 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. Since 1979, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued restrictions on fishing and lobstering based on health risks from eating fish and lobster from the 18,000 acre New Bedford Harbor and the Acushnet River Estuary. 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.

"I want to remind people who fish in the area not to eat the fish or lobster caught from these waters," said Robert W. Varney, EPA New England regional administrator. Varney said that the single biggest risk to human health from the site is from consumption of PCB-contaminated seafood.