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Release Date: 10/30/1996
Contact Information: David Dickerson, EPA Project Manager, 617-573-5735 Kristen Conroy, Community Relations Coordinator, 617-918-1069

BOSTON - The Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site Community Forum, is proposing to dredge PCB contaminated sediments in upper and lower New Bedford Harbor and to isolate the sediments in four shoreline confined disposal facilities.

"This proposal exemplifies how government and citizens can successfully work together to resolve complex issues at sites that offer few easy answers," said John P. DeVillars, Administrator for the EPA's New England office. "Thanks to a planning process that emphasized honesty and respect, citizens in the New Bedford area can now look forward to a harbor they can be proud of."

The key elements of the proposal are:

    • dredge approximately 450,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment spread over approx. 170 acres of the harbor. In the upper harbor north of Coggeshall St., sediments above 10 parts per million (ppm) PCBs will be dredged, while in the lower harbor and in saltmarshes, sediments above 50 ppm will be dredged;
    • construct four shoreline confined disposal facilities, or CDFs, to contain and isolate the dredged sediments from the public and the marine ecosystem;
    • drain water from the sediments once they are placed in the CDFs and treat the water to remove contaminants before returning the water to the harbor;
    • construct an impermeable cover or cap, once the sediments have sufficiently settled, on top of the CDFs (approximately three years after final placement in the CDF);
    • develop a long term monitoring and maintenance program for the CDFs; and
    • potential reuse of the completed CDFs.
This "Phase II" cleanup proposal evolved after an extensive process of studying the harbor and developing community and state and federal agency consensus for a solution. The EPA originally issued a proposed plan and addendum for the upper and lower harbor in January and May, 1992, respectively. Today's proposal reflects the EPA's consideration of the comments received on the two documents, as well as extensive dialogue with the local Forum. The record of decision for the upper and lower harbor will contain the EPA's response to all comments previously received as well as any new comments received on this proposal.

"We're pleased the plan includes dredging and isolating contaminated sediments. This represents an important milestone toward cleaning up New Bedford Harbor," said DEP Commissioner David B. Struhs.

" The members of the New Bedford Harbor Forum have demonstrated extraordinary commitment throughout this very demanding process. The results, both in sophistication regarding technical issues and in building a strong community-government working relationship, provide a model of excellence which will no doubt be studied and replicated," said Jane Wells, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution, facilitator of the New Bedford Harbor Forum.

The public will have the following opportunities to learn more about the proposed activities at the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site, and specifically about the proposed phase II remedy for the upper and lower harbor.

On Nov. 6 at 6 p.m., EPA will hold an informal public meeting at the New Bedford Vocational Technical High School on Ashley Boulevard. From 6 to 7 p.m. graphic poster boards on the proposal will be displayed for citizens to browse and ask questions before the presentations begin at 7 p.m., when the EPA will describe the proposal and answer questions.

On Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. the EPA will hold a formal public hearing at the New Bedford Vocational Technical High School. During the hearing, the public is invited to provide formal oral comments on the proposed cleanup plan. Comments taken at the formal hearing will be recorded as part of the official public record.

The EPA will also accept written comments on the proposed cleanup plan from Nov. 7 through Dec. 9. All comments will be addressed in a document called a responsiveness summary, which will be placed for review at the Wilks Branch Library in New Bedford and at the EPA Record Center in Boston.

Written comments should be submitted to:
David Dickerson
U.S.EPA, Region I
JFK Federal Bldg, HBO
Boston, MA 02203

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund site encompasses 18,000 acres of New Bedford Harbor and parts of Buzzards Bay. The primary contaminants at the site are the result of past disposal of PCB contaminated process wastes from industries along the Acushnet River and Buzzards Bay. In 1977, testing of edible fish tissue revealed PCB levels in excess of U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. As a result, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has restricted fishing in areas of New Bedford Harbor and Buzzards Bay.

In 1983, the EPA added the site to the National Priorities List of hazardous waste sites eligible for Superfund cleanup funds. Massachusetts has designated the New Bedford Harbor site as its top priority federal Superfund site.

The EPA has conducted and continues to conduct extensive studies of the nature and extent of PCB contamination in the harbor. In 1990, EPA signed a Record of Decision to dredge the most contaminated hot spot sediment and treat the sediment by on-site incineration (Phase I). However, due to public disapproval, EPA is re-evaluating this remedy and currently conducting on-site treatability studies for an alternative treatment technology.

Once treatability tests are completed, EPA will issue a separate proposed plan for treatment of the Phase I sediments to solicit public comments on the preferred technology The hot spots were dredged in 1994-1995 and are currently being contained in an on-site confined disposal facility.