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EPA Resumes Dredging of New Bedford Harbor Contaminated Sediment


This week EPA begins the fourth season of full scale dredging of PCB-contaminated sediment in New Bedford Harbor.

This latest dredging effort will focus on an area north of the former Aerovox facility and off shore of the northern portion of the Cliftex mill. Approximately 8 acres of Harbor will be dredged this year, resulting in the removal of about 25,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. This seasonís dredging activities are expected to conclude in October 2007.

The dredged material will be pumped directly into a floating pipeline connecting the dredge to EPAís desanding building located at Sawyer Street, approximately one mile south of the dredged area. Booster pumps, located along the shoreline, will help pump the dredged sediment through the floating pipeline to the desanding facility.

At the desanding facility, coarse material will be separated from the finer sediment. A submerged pipeline will carry the finer sediment another 1.4 miles south to the dewatering facility at Hervey Tichon Avenue and Herman Melville Boulevard. At the dewatering facility, specialized presses will squeeze the excess water out of the dredged sediment. About 16,000 tons of dewatered sediment will be transported off-site by train and disposed of in a licensed PCB-landfill in Michigan. Approximately 20,000,000 gallons of water is expected to be treated to stringent standards and then discharged back into the harbor.

In addition to the three prior seasons of full-scale harbor dredging, many other areas of PCB contaminated harbor sediment have been cleaned up to date, including:
- 19 acres capped in 2005 south of the hurricane barrier;
- seven acres cleaned north of Wood Street in 2002-2003;
- two acres dredged in 2002 for a business relocation;
- five acres of the most highly contaminated sediment dredged in 1994-1995.

The New Bedford Harbor Superfund site includes all of New Bedford Harbor and parts of the Acushnet River and Buzzards Bay. The harbor is contaminated with PCBs, the result of 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 cityís sewer system. EPA added the harbor to its National Priorities List (known as the Superfund list) in 1983, making the site eligible for federal Superfund cleanup money.

Since 1983, EPA has spent more than $220 million in planning, engineering and construction costs for the harbor cleanup. The remaining approximately 240 acres of contaminated sediment, including surrounding wetlands and residential properties, will be processed at the 5-acre dewatering facility in the harborís North Terminal. This 55,000 square-foot dewatering facility and surrounding marine bulkhead and rail spur will revert to the city when the harbor cleanup is finished. An estimated 880,000 cubic yards of sediment 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.


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