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EPA Begins Full Scale Dredging of Contaminated Sediment from New Bedford Harbor

Release Date: 09/28/04
Contact Information:

Peyton Fleming, EPA Public Affairs, 617-918-1008

September 28, 2004: Release # 04-09-13

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun the first season of full scale dredging of PCB-contaminated sediment in New Bedford Harbor. This season’s dredging, which commenced this month and is anticipated to run through the end of December, is focused on an area south of the Wood Street Bridge, near the former Aerovox facility.

Two dredges will actively remove the sediment and a third 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. A submerged pipeline carries the remaining sediment 1.4 miles further down the harbor to the newly constructed dewatering, water treatment and transfer facility at Hervey Tichon Avenue and Herman Melville Boulevard. At the dewatering facility, specialized presses squeeze the excess water out of the sediment. The dewatered sediment is being trucked offsite this year and disposed of in an out-of-state licensed PCB-landfill. The water is being treated to stringent standards and then discharged back into the harbor.

Approximately 20,000 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 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 (known as the Superfund list) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

EPA has spent more than $189 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Fifteen acres of the most highly contaminated areas have been cleaned up and the remaining 240 acres of contaminated sediment, including surrounding wetlands and residential properties, will be processed at the new 5-acre dewatering, water treatment, and transfer facility. 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 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.

Relative Information:
 Cleanup Process
Cleanup in New England
New Bedford Harbor
Web site