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Consent Decree Final for an $800,000 Settlement for the Railroad Depot Site, New Bedford, MA

Release Date: 10/29/2003
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Involvement Office, 617-918-1064

BOSTON - The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts entered last week a Consent Decree which resolves claims made by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in United States v. American Premier Underwriters, et al., which requires the four Settling Defendants to pay the United States $800,000, as reimbursement for Superfund response costs incurred by the United States at the Railroad Depot Site, New Bedford, MA.

The site was operated by several different railroad companies from the early 1900's to 1986. From 1941 to 1977 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were shipped via rail at the site to several New Bedford electronics companies, and numerous spills occurred while transferring the PCBs from tank cars to 55-gallon drums. Carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ("PAHs"), arsenic, and lead were also disposed of at the Site. The defendants are American Premier Underwriters (APU), the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), the Housing 70 Corporation, and the city of New Bedford. APU was formerly known as the Penn Central Corporation, which was the corporate entity that emerged from the bankruptcy of Penn Central Transportation Corporation, which owned the rail yard until 1976. Conrail acquired four of the sixteen lots on the site in 1976. The Housing 70 Corporation bought two more of the parcels from Penn Central in 1980, with the intention of building low income housing, but no project was ever developed. The city of New Bedford also bought a number of the lots as early as 1968.

The settlement will provide for partial reimbursement of over $1,288,249 in response costs incurred by EPA for cleanup activities at the site from 1997 to 1998. Extensive soil testing confirmed large amounts of PCBs and other hazardous substances in the soil throughout the historic rail yard in New Bedford. The majority of the site was posted and fenced to prevent public access until the defendants could initiate a final site cleanup under state authority.

"The RR Depot site is being eyed for redevelopment for both commuter and commercial rail use," said Robert W. Varney, EPA New England regional administrator. "This is another step in the right direction for New Bedford in its revitalization efforts."