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Meeting on New Bedford Harbor Superfund Cleanup Set for March 6; Focus is on Changes to Existing Cleanup Proposal

Release Date: 02/25/2002
Contact Information: Stacy Greendlinger, EPA Community Involvement Office 617-918-1403 Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office 617- 918-1013

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing March 6 on proposed changes to the PCB cleanup planned for New Bedford Harbor.

The hearing will be from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the New Bedford Free Public, which is at 613 Pleasant St. An informational meeting about the proposed changes – during which EPA representatives will explain the proposed changes and answer questions – will be held before the hearing from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the library.

The plan currently calls for the construction of four "combined disposal facilities" along the New Bedford shoreline that would ultimately contain about 500,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with PCB dredged from the bottom of the harbor. These facilities are designed to hold the sediment forever and minimize the chance that PCBs will get back into the harbor.

The new proposed plan calls for eliminating one of the four facilities – a 17-acre dewatering building to be built in the harbor's north terminal port area south of Routes 6 and I-195 – and taking the PCB-contaminated sediment to a licensed disposal facility outside the city.

The new proposal is based mainly on six factors:

    • constructing a disposal facility at the north port terminal poses difficult and costly engineering challenges;
    • in case of budget uncertainties, off-site disposal avoid the possibility that there will be a partially completed and unusable facility along a working waterfront;
    • only two acres of the harbor would need to be filled to support transportation for off-site disposal instead of 17 for the north port terminal facility;
    • buildings constructed for off-site disposal would be more easily reused once the project is complete;
    • off-site disposal is expected to be less expensive.
A public comment period on the changes starts Tuesday, Feb. 26 and ends March 26. Public comment will be accepted at the meeting. You can send public comments, which must be postmarked by March 26, to:

Dave Dickerson,
U.S. EPA Region I
1 Congress St.
Suite 1100
Mail Code HBO
Boston, MA 02114

Email comments should be sent by March 26 to:

The 18,000-acre New Bedford site is an urban tidal estuary with sediments which are highly contaminated with PCBs – or polychlorinated biphenyls – and heavy metals. At least two manufacturers in the area used PCBs while producing electric devices from 1940 to the late 1970s, when the use of PCBs was banned by the EPA.

These facilities discharged industrial wastes containing PCBs directly into the harbor and indirectly via the city's sewerage system. As a result, the harbor is contaminated in varying degrees for at least six miles, from the upper Acushnet River into Buzzards Bay. Over 100,000 people live within three miles of the site. A 5-acre northern portion of the Acushnet River Estuary contaminated with high levels of PCBs has been identified as the "hot spot" area of the site. Measurements taken at the site indicate tidal action moves up to 0.5 pounds per day of PCBs from the upper harbor to the lower harbor and, ultimately, into Buzzards Bay. Bioaccumulation of PCBs within the marine food chain has resulted in closing the area to lobstering and fishing, and recreational activities and harbor development have been limited by the widespread PCB problem.

For more information about the New Bedford site, visit: