The New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts is the site of a Superfund hazardous waste cleanup operation that covers about 18,000 acres of estuary stretching from the upper Acushnet River to Buzzards Bay. The cleanup, which was originally expected to take decades to complete, is being accelerated with $25 to 35 million in federal funds granted by the Environmental Protection Agency through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
As reported by Hilary Russ for The Huffington Post, the federal funding will enable three times more contaminated sediment to be dredged from the harbor compared to recent years. The funding from the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the stimulus plan was aimed at creating jobs for clean-up contractors, soil excavation companies, hazardous waste disposal facilities and testing labs. But the funding will also help the Superfund program, which has suffered budget shortfalls since 2000.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electrical devices were produced in the area and industrial wastes containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals were discharged directly into the harbor or indirectly through discharges into the city’s sewer system from the 1940s until the EPA banned PCBs in the 1970s. A five-acre area in the northern part of the estuary that had high levels of PCBs was dredged in 1994 and 1995. But the accumulation of PCBs in the marine food chain forced the closure of the area to fishing and recreational activities.
The New Bedford site was placed on the Superfund’s National Priorities List in 1983 and full-scale dredging began in 2004. The EPA reports that the Recovery Act money allowed increasing the dredging operation from an average of 40 days per year up to 120 days in 2009 and expects that the dredging season will be 80 days in 2010. This accelerated cleanup is intended to help the city with its plans to develop public access to the shoreline, recreational activities, and wetland restoration.
In addition to the Superfund project to clean up hazardous wastes, there are other projects to restore and protect Buzzards Bay. Chris Reagle reported for the Gatehouse News Service in September 2010 that various communities in the Buzzards Bay watershed shared over $282 thousand in federal grants announced by the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The grants will fund land conservation and infrastructure improvements to conserve open spaces and habitats, protect drinking water resources, and restore herring migration grounds. The federal grants are funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s (CZM) Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program.
Chris Reagle, “Tri-towns share in federal funds to protect Buzzards Bay watershed area” – Gatehouse News Service
Fact Sheet for New Bedford Harbor – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Hilary Russ, “50 EPA Cleanup Sites To Get Stimulus Money” – The Huffington Post
Recovery: EPA Gets Involved – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Superfund Program Implements the Recovery Act – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency