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Ground Broken for New Bedford Harbor PCB Cleanup Facility
Release Date: 08/26/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014
NEW BEDFORD, MASS. – Federal, state and local officials today marked a key stage in the PCB cleanup of New Bedford Harbor with a ceremony to break ground for a sediment dewatering facility on the edge of the harbor. The 55,000 square foot facility will play a central role in the $400 million cleanup of the harbor, by treating PCB-contaminated sediments dredged from the harbor and preparing them for shipment to hazardous waste landfills off site.
The dewatering facility is expected to be completed in the summer of 2004, with full-scale dredging commencing in fall 2004 and finishing in 2008 at the earliest.
When the harbor cleanup is complete, the City of New Bedford will take control of the facility site, including a marine bulkhead, rail spur, and the 55,000 square foot dewatering building, which can be converted to a warehouse. EPA has already awarded the City $100,000 to support the reuse of these facilities, which will become part of the City's North Terminal 2010 intermodal transportation initiative.
"The cleanup of New Bedford Harbor is a long and complex undertaking, and sometimes it's not easy to see the progress that's being made," said Ira Leighton, deputy regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "Today's groundbreaking is a tangible step towards the final cleanup and a clean, safe harbor."
"This represents a significant milestone in the cleanup of New Bedford Harbor," said Frederick Kalisz, Mayor of New Bedford. "I commend EPA on the progress made in New Bedford Harbor in the last few years, and look forward to continuing our partnership to complete the job of cleanup."
"This project is significant because it shows the commitment by the partners in helping EPA achieve progress on remediation at this site," said District Engineer Colonel Thomas Koning, of the Army Corps of Engineers New England District. "This is vitally important to the residents of this region because New Bedford Harbor is the home of one of the largest fishing fleets and oldest recreational and commercial navigation harbors along the east coast."
"This facility is a key component in a multi-faceted cleanup of the Harbor promising better days for New Bedford, the region and the state," said Edward Kunce, deputy commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. "The removal of contaminated sediments will not only reduce the potential exposure for humans and biota but also work in concert with the City's own plans for developing the public and economic uses of the 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 $180 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Fifteen acres of the most highly contaminated areas of the harbor have been cleaned up and the remaining 240 acres of contaminated sediment, including surrounding wetlands and residential properties, will be processed at the new 4.5-acre dewatering and transfer facility. The sediment will be dewatered at this facility and then disposed at an offsite landfill or in one of three confined disposal facilities along the New Bedford shoreline. An estimated 880,000 cubic yards of sediments are slated to be removed, roughly equivalent to 125 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.