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EPA Eliminates Construction of 17-acre Confined Disposal Facility

Release Date: 08/21/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced an $8 million savings to the New Bedford Harbor Superfund cleanup plan by not building a previously planned 17-acre confined disposal facility (CDF) in the north terminal area of New Bedford Harbor. Instead, EPA will build a f five-acre shoreline facility to dewater and transfer PCB-contaminated sediments for offsite disposal. The decision not to build the CDF structure comes after a 45-day public comment period on the agency's proposed change to the cleanup plan.

"This decision, which received wide public support, will enable EPA to start dredging the contaminated sediment that much faster," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator at EPA's New England Office. "The new shoreline facilities have the added advantage of becoming an integral part of the harbor's working waterfront and intermodal transportation center once the cleanup is complete."

The decision to eliminate the 17-acre confined disposal facility was based on the following reasons:

    • Disposing the contaminated sediments off-site avoids filling 15 acres of the harbor;
    • Significant engineering challenges encountered in designing and building the 17-acre confined disposal facility are avoided;
    • Constructing the off-site disposal infrastructure has less adverse impacts on surrounding waterfront dependent businesses;
    • The shoreline facility required for off-site disposal can be more easily reused;
    • Off-site disposal allows for a quicker cleanup of highly contaminated sediment north of Wood Street.
The New Bedford Harbor Superfund cleanup plan calls for the dredging and dewatering of approximately 170 acres of PCB-contaminated sediments and wetlands, and disposal of the contaminated material at a licensed offsite disposal facility. Three smaller shoreline confined disposal facilities (CDFs) may be constructed in the future to permanently contain some of the contaminated sediment as well.

Construction of the industrial grade waterfront bulkhead for the dewatering facility is expected to begin this fall and dredging of the harbor is scheduled to begin in late 2003.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund site encompasses all of New Bedford Harbor and parts of Buzzards Bay. The harbor was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the result of past waste disposal practices at two electrical component manufacturing plants. PCB wastes were discharged directly into the harbor as well as indirectly through the city's sewer system.

Seafood from New Bedford Harbor and the Acushnet River estuary contain high levels of PCBs which can cause illness if eaten regularly. Since 1979, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued restrictions on fishing and lobstering based on health risks from eating seafood from the 18,000-acre New Bedford Harbor and Acushnet River estuary. EPA added the harbor to its National Priorities List (commonly known as the Superfund list) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

"I want to remind people who fish in the area not to eat seafood caught from these waters," Varney said. Varney said that the single biggest human health risk from the site is from consumption of PCB-contaminated seafood.

EPA's final decision and supporting documentation is available at the reference section of the New Bedford Free Public Library at 613 Pleasant Street, New Bedford and at the EPA New England Records Center, 100 Congress Street, Boston, 617-918-1440.