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EPA Celebrates New Bedford Harbor Cleanup Accomplishments Leading to Economic Development

01/07/2021
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

NEW BEDFORD, MASS. – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is observing the significant and rapid progress addressing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in New Bedford Harbor during the past several years. EPA’s cleanup work in the harbor has achieved major milestones, resulting in EPA now transferring control of a 5-acre industrial port facility with rail access, formerly used as a sediment dewatering facility within New Bedford’s working waterfront. This is a significant advance for the City and its ongoing economic revitalization.

After more than 17 years of effort, the Superfund dredging of PCB-contaminated sediments in both the upper and lower harbor below the low tide line was finally completed in March 2020. EPA has removed a total of approximately one million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the harbor, marking the completion of all Superfund subtidal dredging. As a result, EPA’s rail-accessible sediment dewatering and load-out facility on Hervey Tichon Avenue is no longer needed and has been decommissioned and transferred to the City of New Bedford to allow shoreline redevelopment in the port’s working waterfront.

The dewatering facility encompasses a five-acre parcel where hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of contaminated subtidal sediment was dewatered before being sent off-site for safe disposal at licensed facilities. The site is one of the only heavy-duty, rail-accessible port facilities in New England. The marine bulkhead is reinforced for berthing large cargo ships and can support heavy cranes and other shoreline equipment abutting the future North Terminal Site. This valuable commercial/industrial resource will now be transferred to the City for beneficial reuse.  

“EPA is very proud that our lengthy history addressing industrial pollution in New Bedford Harbor has achieved substantial results. EPA is making good on our commitment to see this project through to completion for the residents of New Bedford,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. “Through our cleanup work, EPA is ensuring that the Harbor does not pose health risks to people coming into contact with sediments or, in the long-term, when eating fish in and around the Harbor. By transferring control of the dewatering facility, EPA is helping the City’s efforts to revitalize their working waterfront in ways that will benefit the local and regional economy.”

The expedited work to remove and safely dispose of contaminated sediment from New Bedford Harbor was made possible by a historic 2012 settlement reached between the federal and state governments, and AVX Corp. for $366.25 million, plus interest, for cleanup costs in the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site. The settlement paved the way for expedited implementation of the cleanup of the New Bedford Harbor Site at full capacity, providing more rapid protection of public health and the environment in addressing PCB-contaminated sediment in the harbor.

“I wish to thank Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel for his strong partnership with the City the last two years that has led to significant progress in the cleanup of New Bedford Harbor. While much work remains in intertidal areas, the City can now take control of the EPA’s former dewatering facility, which is ready to be used as a port facility to support a variety of marine commerce,” said City of New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“Today is a proud day for the Corps of Engineers as we have partnered with the EPA on the clean-up of this harbor for more than 30 years,” said Col. John A. Atilano II, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District. “Contaminated since the 1940s, the New Bedford Harbor is one of the largest and most complex cleanups our District has ever undertaken, and this project has been full of challenges since day one.  Our team rose to meet those challenges and now we are turning this valuable piece of real estate back to the people of New Bedford. The sediment dewatering process building was a necessary component, and in some ways a symbol, of our sub-tidal cleanup work.  Now that the subtidal environment has been remediated, we are very happy to no longer have need of it. I look forward to our continued partnership with the EPA on this effort as well as other current and future projects.”

Now that the subtidal Superfund dredging is complete, and transfer of the dewatering facility finalized, remediation will focus on those shoreline/saltmarsh areas in the upper harbor and Acushnet River north of Route 195 that have not yet been remediated. During 2020, the two northern-most shoreline zones immediately south of the Wood/Slocum Street bridge have been remediated, resulting in over 20,000 cubic yards of shoreline and saltmarsh sediment being excavated and shipped off-site.

During 2021, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will continue to remediate areas south of Pleasant Street in Fairhaven, and south of Belleville Road in New Bedford. All of the shoreline remediation follows similar procedures: All removed soil/sediment will be thickened with Portland cement at EPA’s Sawyer Street facility and then disposed off-site at a licensed TSCA landfill. The excavated shoreline areas will be backfilled with clean topsoil and planted with thousands of native salt marsh grasses, trees and shrubs. Air monitoring occurs throughout this type of work to ensure it is being performed safely.

Even though the subtidal Superfund dredging is complete, fish and seafood caught in and around the harbor will remain contaminated with PCBs for some time. Local fishermen/women should familiarize themselves with applicable fishing restrictions and advisories to ensure harvested seafood is safe to eat.

EPA will hold a virtual public meeting on January 13th at 6pm to discuss the status of the harbor cleanup including remedial work planned for 2021. This meeting will be held on the Microsoft Teams platform, and further sign-in instructions will be distributed via email in the near future and will also be posted on the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site page under ‘Stay Updated’ and ‘What’s New’.

More information: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/newbedford

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