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New Bedford Harbor

Community Update on Site Activities, July 19, 2013

In an effort to engage and inform community members interested in the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site cleanup, EPA will be issuing periodic topic-based emails relevant to the cleanup. Each fact sheet will focus on a particular element of the cleanup with the objectives of providing background information and updates about ongoing activities. These fact sheets will be distributed by email to the New Bedford Harbor email list, which includes local city staff and local news publications, and will be available on EPA's New Bedford Harbor website.

As stated in the Record of Decision (PDF) (332 pp, 20.7 MB, About PDF) for the Upper and Lower Harbor Operable Unit of the Site, the overall goals focus on the cleanup focus of New Bedford Harbor and its surrounding communities. The remedial action objectives as stated in OU1 ROD at pages 15-16 (23-24 of pdf) include:

A) Reduce health risks by reducing PCB concentrations in seafood by lowering PCB concentrations in sediment and in the water column.
B) Reduce health risks due to contact with PCB-contaminated sediment in shoreline intertidal areas.
C) Improve the quality of the Harbor's highly degraded marine ecosystem.

Since 1979, Massachusetts regulations have prohibited eating fish and/or shellfish caught in certain areas of New Bedford Harbor. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection samples local fish and shellfish every year to determine whether PCB concentrations are declining as a result of cleanup activities around New Bedford Harbor.

EPA recommends that recreational fishermen, shell fishermen and everyone else follow the Massachusetts regulations. In addition, we recommend limited eating of certain species not covered by the 1979 state regulations. For more information, please see our website at:

For more information, please visit our website at or feel free to contact our Community Involvement Coordinator at the email or phone number listed below.

Kelsey O'Neil (


Site Description

  • The New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site is located in Bristol County, Massachusetts.
    • The Superfund program was established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites. It is also the name of the fund established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability act of 1980, as amended (CERCLA).
    • This law was enacted in the wake of the discovery of toxic waste dumps such as Love Canal in the 1970's. Learn more about Superfund and CERCLA.
  • EPA identified sediment and seafood contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls ("PCBs") in and around New Bedford Harbor in the mid 1970s, and EPA began site-specific investigations in 1983 and 1984. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts designated the New Bedford Site as its highest priority site, and EPA placed the New Bedford Site on the National Priorities List ("NPL") on September 8, 1983.
  • The Site contains approximately 18,000 acres and includes three geographic areas of the Acushnet River estuary and Buzzards Bay – the Upper, Lower and Outer Harbors. EPA divided the Site into three operable units ("OUs").
    • The Upper Harbor is defined as the area north of the rt. 195 bridge.
    • The Lower Harbor is defined as the area between the 195 bridge and the hurricane barrier.
    • The Outer Harbor is defined as the area south of the hurricane barrier.
    • OU1 – covers the Upper and Lower Harbor, and also includes an interim action for two locations in the Outer Harbor.
    • OU2 addressed the hot spot sediment, defined as sediment containing PCBs at levels above 4,000 parts per million (ppm), generally located in a five-acre area in the Upper Harbor near the former Aerovox Facility, the primary source of PCB contamination to the Harbor.
    • OU3 Encompasses the Outer Harbor area.
  • In 1998 EPA signed a Record of Decision ("ROD") for OU1. That remedy has been modified by Explanations of Significant Differences ("ESDs")

Examples of upcoming topics will include, but are not limited to:

  • Sources/characteristics of contamination
  • Superfund Process
  • Record of Decision
  • Lower Harbor CAD Cell
  • Cleanup Levels
  • Dredging work
  • Air monitoring
  • Five-Year Reviews
  • Seafood
  • State Enhanced Remedy
  • South Terminal