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EPA Resumes Dredging of Contaminated Sediment From New Bedford Harbor

Release Date: 09/09/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan (, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1017

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2005; Release # dd050902

(New Bedford) - Early next week EPA will begin the second season of full scale dredging of PCB-contaminated sediment in New Bedford Harbor. This season’s dredging is anticipated to run through the end of November and is focused on an area just south of the former Aerovox facility.

One dredge will actively remove the sediment and a second dredge is on site as back-up. The dredged material is pumped directly into a floating pipeline connecting each dredge to EPA’s desanding building located at Sawyer Street, approximately one mile down river. Booster pumps, located along the shoreline, help pump the dredged sediment through the floating pipeline to the desanding facility.

At the desanding facility, coarse material is separated from the finer sediment producing a daily total of about 50 tons of sand. A submerged pipeline carries the remaining sediment 1.4 miles further down the harbor to the newly constructed dewatering facility at Hervey Tichon Avenue and Herman Melville Boulevard. At the dewatering facility, specialized presses squeeze the excess water out of the sediment which will result in about 280 tons of dewatered sediment per day. The dewatered sediment is being transported off-site by up to three trains per week and 10 to 15 trucks per week and disposed of in a licensed PCB-landfill in Michigan. Approximately 600,000 gallons of water is being treated each day to stringent standards and then discharged back into the harbor.

Approximately 25,000 cubic yards of sediment will be dredged this year. To ensure that the dredging operation is being performed safely, both a water quality and an air quality monitoring program are being conducted. The results of the airborne PCB monitoring can be reviewed at the project web site at: .

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 PCBs, 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 to its National Priorities List (known as the Superfund list) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

Since 1983, EPA has spent more than $209 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Approximately 30 acres of high priority areas have been cleaned up to date and the remaining 240 acres of contaminated sediment, including surrounding wetlands and residential properties, will be processed at the new 5-acre dewatering facility in the harbor’s North Terminal. An estimated 880,000 cubic yards of sediments are slated to be removed, roughly equivalent to 175 football fields each filled three feet deep.

Fish, lobster, quahog 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.

For more information about the New Bedford site, visit: .

Related Information:
New Bedford Harbor Site