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Restoration of Contaminated Areas in Acushnet, Mass. Underway - Work is part of New Bedford Harbor Cleanup

Release Date: 05/24/2006
Contact Information: Dave Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – May 24, 2006) - This week EPA began restoration with plantings between the Titleist shoreline parking lot and the River View Park in Acushnet, Mass. as part of the New Bedford Harbor PCB cleanup.

The plantings will include 2,600 salt marsh grasses in the intertidal zone at a 14,400 sq. ft. site in Acushnet. In the abutting upland area, crews are installing 20 area shrubs and four native trees, as well as broadcast seeding a native species seed mix comprised of both wildflowers and grasses.

The site was prepared for restoration plantings after work was completed in Dec. 2005 to excavate and remove approximately 450 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated shoreline soils. The contaminated soil was removed and replaced with clean topsoil backfill.

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 - polychlorinated biphenyls - which are toxic and environmentally persistent chemicals. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in 1977 due to evidence that PCBs build up in the environment and can cause harmful health effects.

Contamination in Acushnet resulted from past waste disposal practices at two capacitor 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 New Bedford Harbor to the national Superfund list in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

Since 1983, EPA has spent more than $221 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. Approximately 38 acres of high priority areas have been cleaned up to date and the remaining 240 acres of contaminated sediment, including surrounding wetlands and residential properties, will be processed at the new 5-acre dewatering facility in the harbor’s North Terminal. 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, quahog 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.

For more information about the New Bedford site, see:

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