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Superfund Program Implements the Recovery Act

New Bedford Harbor

New Bedford, Massachusetts

Site Description
The 18,000-acre New Bedford site is an urban tidal estuary with sediments that are highly contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals.   From the 1940s until EPA’s PCB ban in the 1970s, facilities associated with the production of electrical devices discharged industrial wastes containing PCBs directly and indirectly into the harbor. As a result, PCBs contaminate the harbor in varying degrees for at least six miles, from the upper Acushnet River into Buzzards Bay.  A five-acre northern portion of the Acushnet River Estuary contaminated with high levels of PCBs (the "hot spot" area) was dredged in 1994 and 1995. Bioaccumulation of PCBs within the marine food chain has resulted in closing the entire site area to lobstering and fishing, and recreational activities and harbor development have been limited by the widespread-PCB problem. 

Cleanup Actions to Date
Since placing the site on the Superfund’s National Priorities List in 1983, EPA has been addressing the site in four stages: initial actions, and three long-term cleanup actions focusing on the hot spot area, the upper and lower harbor areas, and the Buzzards Bay area.  Approximately 146,000 cubic yards of the most highly contaminated sediments and shoreline soils, backyards and salt marshes have been addressed.  Full-scale dredging, dewatering and disposal operations began in 2004.  Dredging operations typically are conducted 40 days per year.  In 2005, EPA partnered with the City and State on a pilot underwater cap in conjunction with a navigational dredging project, saving an estimated $15 million.

Recovery Act Project Activity
The $30 million Recovery Act funding for this site will be added to the existing funding of ongoing dredging efforts, which will accelerate cleanup activities. The full scale dredging process includes a number of components including debris removal, booster pumping/chemical addition, de-sanding, dewatering, water treatment and disposal of the dewatered sediment via rail at a licensed landfill. Comprehensive environmental monitoring is also being performed to ensure the project is implemented in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment. While the entire cleanup effort will extend beyond the use of this additional funding, the funds will speed up these efforts by allowing the dredging of a larger volume of contaminated sediment from the highly contaminated upper harbor. The accelerated cleanup will help facilitate the City's plans to develop shoreline public access, recreational boating, competitive rowing, and wetland restoration in the upper and lower harbor areas.

FY2011 highlights include:

  • Mobilization for the final phase of Recovery Act funded work was targeted for May 2011. All Recovery Act-funded dredging operations will be completed during the 2011 construction season with the final trailing costs expended by the end of November 2011.

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