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Massachusetts Bay Industrial Waste Site Restoration Project

Source: Draft Environmental Assessment on the Expansion of the Massachusetts Bay Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site, September 2017The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the temporary expansion of the boundaries of the Massachusetts Bay Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (MBDS) in order to restore an adjacent area known as the Industrial Waste Site (IWS). A Proposed Rule for the Temporary Modification of an Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site in Massachusetts Bay was published in the Federal Register on September 22, 2017 (82 FR 44369 Exit) with a 31-day comment period ending October 23, 2017. The Draft Environmental Assessment on the Expansion of the Massachusetts Bay Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (ODMDS), September 2017 was also released for public comment.

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History of Disposal in Massachusetts Bay

Beginning in the early twentieth century, an area within Massachusetts Bay known as the Industrial Waste Site (IWS) was used for the disposal of various waste materials. Disposal at the IWS included barrels of radioactive, chemical and hospital waste; construction debris; contaminated dredged material; derelict vessels; ordnance; etc. Use of the IWS was terminated by the EPA in 1977. The Massachusetts Bay Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (MBDS) was designated by EPA in 1992 for the disposal of dredged materials suitable for ocean disposal under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA). The MBDS overlaps the IWS to the south, but does not include the area with the greatest concentration of waste containers (known as the ‘barrel field’). The MBDS and IWS are west of and directly adjacent to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) Exit, which was also designated in 1992.

Due to the hazardous nature of the materials disposed, the IWS area has been closed to the harvesting of surf clams and ocean quahogs since 1980. There is also a warning against harvesting fish and shellfish from the IWS area included on all nautical charts. Despite these warnings, there have been reports of fishermen retrieving barrels from the seafloor, including an instance of a barrel of industrial waste breaking on the deck of a fishing vessel, injuring the captain.

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What is Being Proposed

In 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will perform regular maintenance dredging of Boston Harbor, which includes the expansion of an existing confined aquatic disposal (CAD) cell and will generate approximately 1 million cubic yards of dredged material suitable for ocean disposal. After completion of the maintenance dredging, USACE will initiate the Boston Harbor Deep Draft Navigation Project to allow for the passage of larger cargo vessels, which will generate approximately 11 million cubic yards of suitable dredged material. More information about the Boston Harbor project can be found on the USACE website. Exit

EPA and USACE are proposing to beneficially use the dredged material generated during the Boston Harbor maintenance and navigation projects deemed suitable for ocean disposal to create a protective cover over the IWS barrel field. This is intended to sequester any contaminants, reducing the risk to fishermen that do harvest in the area, despite posted warnings. It is also intended to reduce the risk of contaminants from historic disposal entering the food web of Massachusetts Bay. USACE devised a method of disposing dredged material that will create berms in order to minimize the risk of resuspending any potentially contaminated seafloor sediment or breaking any barrels. EPA performed surveys to determine the extent of the barrel field and create Priority Areas for restoration, which USACE used to create the Potential Restoration Area and determine the thickness of cover material needed in order to be protective.

In order to undertake this project, EPA is proposing to modify the MBDS by temporarily expanding the boundaries into the historic IWS. The expansion would open the area only for the disposal of suitable dredged material generated during the Boston Harbor maintenance dredging and Deep Draft Navigation Project. This will  allow for the IWS barrel field to be covered and restored, protecting both the ecosystem and fishermen utilizing the area.

The Proposed Rule for the Temporary Modification of an Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site in Massachusetts Bay was published in the Federal Register on September 22, 2017 (82 FR 44369 EXIT) with a 31-day comment period ending October 23, 2017. The Draft Environmental Assessment on the Expansion of the Massachusetts Bay Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site (ODMDS), September 2017 was also released for public comment.

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Contact

Alicia Grimaldi, Physical Scientist
U.S. EPA, Region 1
grimaldi.alicia@epa.gov
(617)918-1806

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