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EPA Enters Fifth Season of PCB Dredging in New Bedford Harbor

Release Date: 08/08/2008
Contact Information: Jeanethe Falvey, 617.918.1020

(Boston, Mass. - August 8, 2008) – In the coming weeks EPA will once again conduct full scale dredging operations to clean up PCB-contaminated sediment in New Bedford Harbor.

This year’s dredging will take place in the cove between Sawyer Street and Coffin Avenue in New Bedford. Work is expected to last for approximately eight weeks, through October 2008. Similar to dredging results in recent years, EPA expects to remove about 25,000 cubic yards of contaminated harbor bottom sediment.

The dredged material from the harbor bottom is pumped directly into a floating pipeline that connects the dredge to EPA’s de-sanding building located at Sawyer Street. At the de-sanding facility, coarse material is separated from the finer sediment that, by its nature, has more PCB contamination adhering to it. The separated coarse material will be stored in a lined holding cell next the de-sanding facility.
From there, a submerged pipeline will carry the finer sediment 1.4 miles south to the de-watering facility located at Hervey Tichon Avenue and Herman Melville Boulevard. Inside the de-watering facility, specialized presses will squeeze the excess water out of the dredged sediment before it is loaded onto wrapped and sealed train cars before leaving the facility for offsite disposal. EPA anticipates that the dredging operations will generate approximately 20 million gallons of water that will require stringent treatment to meet high water quality standards before being released back into the harbor. The water filtration and treatment processes also take place within EPA’s de-watering facility.

About 16,000 tons of dredged and de-watered sediment will be transported off-site by train and disposed of into a licensed PCB-landfill in Michigan.
During this season’s dredging in the cove, EPA will be conducting air monitoring in all four wind directions from the dredge location. This is a routine and precautionary measure. In the thousands of air samples that EPA has taken before, during, and after dredging operations in New Bedford Harbor none have shown any increased risk to public health from cleanup activities.

In addition to the four prior seasons of full-scale harbor dredging, many other areas of PCB contaminated sediment have been cleaned up to date throughout New Bedford Harbor, including:
- 8,500 cubic yards of contaminated sediment was removed from the shoreline along the vacant Aerovox mill this past June and July 2008
- 19 acres capped in 2005 south of the hurricane barrier;
- Seven acres cleaned north of Wood Street in 2002-2003;
- Two acres dredged in 2002 for a business relocation;
- Five acres of the most highly contaminated sediment in the vicinity of the Aerovox mill were dredged in 1994-1995.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund site includes all of New Bedford Harbor and parts of the Acushnet River and Buzzards Bay. The harbor is contaminated with PCBs as the result of past waste disposal practices at two capacitor 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 site to its National Priorities List (known as the Superfund list) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup funds.

Since 1983, EPA has spent more than $250 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Roughly 880,000 cubic yards of contaminated harbor sediment have required cleanup, of which about 118,000 cubic yards have been cleaned up to date. With EPA’s current funding level and ongoing cleanup approach, EPA could potentially be working to clean the harbor for another 38 years. In light of this timeframe EPA has been working to evaluate the effectiveness, feasibility and costs associated with other cleanup approaches. EPA is already working to keep the public informed and encourages community participation as all local, state and federal agencies continue to work to find the safest and most effective cleanup solution. EPA expects to hold public informational sessions every three to six months to provide updates, the next of which is planned for the October/ November timeframe. Informal walk-in meetings are also held at 10 a.m. during the last Thursday of every month at EPA’s Sawyer Street trailer.
While seafood is part of a healthy diet, fish, lobster and quahogs from the Acushnet River and New Bedford Harbor contain high levels of PCBs. Illness and harm to your health could result if they are eaten regularly, especially to women who are pregnant or of childbearing age. In 1979, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued restrictions on fishing and lobstering based on health risks from consumption of fish and lobster from the 18,000-acre New Bedford Harbor and Acushnet River estuary. Please take caution and notice of these restrictions.

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