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EPA Begins Construction of Pipeline Assembly and Desanding Building for New Bedford Harbor Cleanup

Release Date: 06/30/04
Contact Information: Contact: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Involvement Office, (617) 918-1064

For Immediate Release: June 30, 2004 ; Release # 04-06-37

NEW BEDFORD, MASS. -- Construction is underway on the last two major portions of the infrastructure needed for the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in New Bedford Harbor, the EPA announced today. A 12,600 square foot desanding facility is being constructed at the bottom of Sawyer Street and more than three miles of pipeline is being assembled. Both projects will be completed before the full-scale harbor dredging project begins this fall.

"The construction of the desanding building and pipelines brings us significantly closer to the much anticipated start of the full scale dredging of New Bedford Harbor, and ultimately to a clean, safe, fishable harbor" said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office.

The desanding building will receive pumped dredge material via floating pipelines. This dredged material will be processed inside the desanding building to separate the coarse material from the dredged slurry. The coarse material -- sand, shells, rocks, etc.-- will be collected and then trucked off site and disposed of at an approved facility.

Approximately 3.7 miles of pipeline is being assembled at the former Aerovox facility and at EPA's facility at the bottom of Sawyer Street. Of the 3.7 miles of pipeline, 2.4 miles will consist of five floating ten-inch diameter pipelines which will be clearly marked with navigation lights. One floating pipeline will run from each of the three dredges to booster pumps located either on the shoreline or on a floating barge in the upper harbor. The other two will run from the booster pumps to the desanding building at Sawyer Street.

Once assembled, 1.3 miles of pipe will connect the desanding building at Sawyer Street to the newly constructed 55,000 square foot sediment dewatering, water treatment, and transfer facility located at Hervey Tichon Ave. and Herman Melville Blvd. This 1.3 mile segment will consist of a submerged pipe-inside-a-pipe (12" diameter within 18" diameter pipe). The pipes will be floated in place, sunk and anchored to the bottom of the lower harbor. The submerged pipeline will be marked every 500 feet with a lighted buoy. The submerged pipeline will transport the desanded dredged sediment from Sawyer Street to the dewatering, water treatment and transfer facility. The desanded sediment will then go through specialized presses that squeeze out excess water which will be treated to stringent standards and then discharged back into the harbor. The dewatered sediment will then be disposed of at an out-of-state licensed landfill or in one of three confined disposal facilities along the New Bedford shoreline.

The floating pipelines will be removed each year during the non-dredging season, whereas the submerged pipeline will remain in place during the duration of the harbor cleanup.

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 (commonly known as the Superfund) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

EPA has spent over $180 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Fifteen acres of the most highly contaminated areas of the harbor 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.

Related Information:
New Bedford Harbor Site