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Release Date: 05/07/1999
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, 617-918-1064 Jim Brown, EPA Project Manager, 617-918-1308

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued an amended cleanup plan for the New Bedford Harbor hot spot sediments currently in interim storage at the Sawyer Street confined disposal facility. The hot spot sediments consist of the most highly contaminated sediments that were dredged from approximately five acres of the Harbor in 1994 and 1995. Work is scheduled to begin this summer.

The amended cleanup plan calls for the off-site land filling of the 14,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments in a permitted hazardous waste landfill. The amended plan replaces EPA's 1990 decision which called for incinerating the contaminated sediments in New Bedford. The amended plan was developed in close cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site Community Forum and other state and federal agencies during a five year consensus-building process.

"Five years ago the community, to their credit, took us to the woodshed over incineration," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator. "With this new plan - which achieves an environmentally sound cleanup and community consensus - we seek to redeem ourselves and establish a model for how EPA can work hand in hand with community leaders."

"I know that people say 'I told you so,' but the citizens of greater New Bedford are entitled to a big 'I told you so,' said Congressman Barney Frank. "Because EPA was willing to listen, this particular story has a happier ending today than it did seven years ago."

The amended decision is in response to local and Congressional opposition to the original decision which included on-site incineration as a component of the remedy. Working with the community, EPA agreed to study other options for treating the contaminated sediments and to work with the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site Community Forum to reach a consensus based cleanup plan with which to amend the 1990 decision.

"Many years of hard work by all of the interested parties have finally paid off," said Edward Kunce, said acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. "We were able to put early disagreements behind us, and work closely together to craft a solution with which everyone is comfortable and which achieved the level of cleanup that this community deserves."

The key elements of the Amended Record of Decision are:

    • Sediment dewatering and water treatment. Sediments stored in the CDF are approximately 50% water, and will be dewatered to a level that is in compliance with the permits for the selected off-site permitted hazardous waste landfill. Options for dewatering the sediments will be evaluated during the design process.
    • Transportation to an off-site permitted landfill. Following dewatering, sediments will be loaded into sealed containers for transport to a permitted off-site hazardous waste landfill.
Work is scheduled to begin this summer to dewater the sediments and prepare them for transport off site. In addition to the activities planned for the final cleanup of the hot spot sediments, work continues to proceed on the harbor-wide remedy. Environmental monitoring and soil boring programs are scheduled to begin this spring, and tunneling for the replacement of Commonwealth Electric's submerged power lines is scheduled to start this summer. This relocation of cables will allow dredging to proceed in the highly contaminated area where the cables currently lie.

Also requiring relocation are the combined sewer overflows (CSOs) near Sawyer Street. This is to make room for construction of the first confined disposal facility (CDF) which will be located along the shoreline between Sawyer and Coggeshall Streets. This activity is expected to begin in January 2000.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site encompasses all of New Bedford Harbor and parts of nearby Buzzards Bay. The widespread PCB contamination of the site is 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 via the city's sewerage system. In 1977, high levels of PCBs detected in local seafood led Massachusetts to enact a fishing ban throughout the 18,000 acre site. In 1983, the site was added to EPA's National Priorities (Superfund) List making it eligible for federal cleanup funds.

A copy of the ROD Amendment and the Administrative Record are available for public review at the Wilks Branch Library in New Bedford.