EPA Says New Bedford Harbor Cleanup Has Made 'Significant Progress'

Photo: Getty Images

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (State House News Service) — Elected officials were drawn to New Bedford Harbor on Tuesday to mark the latest milestone in efforts to address contamination there.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that work to address PCB contamination in the harbor is now on track to be completed in about three years due in part to a $72.7 million commitment in the new federal infrastructure law.

State officials also joined the EPA in announcing a settlement with Cornell Dubilier Electronics, a capacitator company with a facility in New Bedford, that will provide about $3.6 million toward harbor shoreline remediation and another $400,000 to help pay for remedies at the Superfund site.

The EPA said "significant progress" in removing and addressing PCB contamination in New Bedford Harbor has been made since 2012, when the government reached a $366 million settlement with AVX Corporation, but work remains and those funds are mostly depleted. The EPA estimated the total cost for the harbor PCB cleanup at $1 billion, and said about half of that amount has been funded by the federal and state government cost recovery efforts.

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While there are still three more years of work ahead, the cleanup work at the 18,000-acre site spans decades and the end of the work is now within sight.

"I am thrilled to announce that thanks to vital funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the steadfast commitment of our enforcement attorneys, state counterparts, and community partners, EPA now has the resources to complete the job of addressing hazardous pollution that has contaminated New Bedford Harbor for decades," EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe said in a statement. "EPA and the Biden-Harris Administration have prioritized protecting public health and addressing environmental impacts in communities who have historically been left out of the conversation and overburdened by dangerous pollution. I am proud of this collaborative effort and the progress that we have made."

The site was added to the Superfund list in 1983 because it was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals used by at least two manufacturers when PCBs were used to make electric devices from the 1940s to the late 1970s. Industrial waste containing PCBs was discharged into the harbor and through the city sewer system, the EPA said, a practice that ended when the manufacture of PCBs was banned by the EPA in the late 1970s.

The infrastructure law included a "first wave" of $1 billion to help clean up Superfund sites nationwide. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS | 5/31/22 11:58 AM

Written by Michael Norton/SHNS.

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