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EPA Sets the Rule for PCBs in Dredged Material; Bioaccumulation of 113 Parts per Billion is Now the Maximum Permitted

Release Date: 03/10/2003
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Dredging in action#03019) New York, N.Y. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule that sets a limit for the amount of PCBs in dredged material placed in the waters off New York and New Jersey at the Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS). The rule sets a value of 113 parts per billion (ppb) as the maximum concentration of PCBs in the tissue of worms exposed in laboratory tanks to dredged material proposed for placement at the HARS. Dredging is needed to clear sediment that builds up in harbor channels and berths in the New York/New Jersey port region. EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny originally proposed the 113 ppb rule in October 2002. The Agency made its decision after carefully considering and responding to 220 written comments on EPA's proposal and listening to testimony at two public hearings.

"This Administration has once again demonstrated its commitment to protecting the ocean by getting the PCB rule finalized so quickly," said Administrator Christie Whitman. "When the court required EPA to codify 113 parts per billion as the limit for PCBs in dredged material, the Agency moved immediately to ensure that no dredged sediments exceeding that value would be placed at the HARS. Using the most current science available, we developed a criterion that ensures that the HARS is remediated properly. We look forward to continued work with our partners to evaluate our procedures and decide what material is suitable for placement at the HARS."

In June of 2002, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman moved to protect the ocean following a court decision in the U.S. Gypsum case. The judge ruled that the value of 113 ppb for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which was adopted by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in September 2000, should have been issued as a formal rule. This final rule completes the commitment by Administrator Whitman to establish a HARS-specific PCB value. The PCB rule, established under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, only applies to sediments that are being considered for placement at the HARS. If the concentration of PCBs that bioaccumulates in worm tissue exceeds EPA's criterion of 113 ppb, that material may not be placed at the HARS.

EPA is continuing a scientific peer review process initiated under a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the science used to evaluate dredged materials proposed to be placed at the HARS. Today's rule establishing a PCB criterion does not replace that ongoing process. The Agency is establishing the PCB criterion in the meantime because, even as it goes through this scientific review process, current science indicates that the old value of 400 parts per billion is not sufficiently protective. The Agency will meet with the Remediation Materials Workgroup to review and provide advice concerning the criteria used to evaluate dredged material proposed for placement at the HARS as Remediation Material.

The HARS is a 15.7 square nautical-mile area located approximately 3.5 nautical miles east of Highlands, New Jersey. It includes the two-square-mile former Mud Dump Site, where from 1973 to 1997, sediments dredged from the harbor area were placed. When the Mud Dump Site was closed, the HARS was designated, allowing EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to remediate portions of the ocean floor that had been contaminated by disposal practices dating back to the 1800's. To cap and remediate the HARS and ensure that contaminants are not released, only dredged material that meets certain EPA requirements is allowed to be placed there. EPA has been using the 113 ppb PCB value for this capping material since 2000.

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Full Text of the Rule