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Clean Up New Bedford Harbor

upper New Bedford Harbor shoreline
A view of the shoreline of upper New Bedford Harbor, the most contaminated section of the harbor.

For decades in the mid-20th century, factories along the Acushnet River dumped contaminants called PCBs into the water. This toxic pollution has robbed the New Bedford community of the chance to use its greatest natural asset: its harbor.

Now, after years of waiting, New Bedford Harbor still isn’t getting the cleanup it deserves. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is leaving New Bedford Harbor with one of the worst PCB cleanups in America.

Why won’t the EPA’s plan clean up New Bedford Harbor?

Azorean whaleboats on New Bedford HarborThe EPA creates cleanup plans for places like New Bedford Harbor that are polluted with toxic contaminants. To clean up the harbor, workers are dredging the bottom of the harbor to remove contaminated sediment. The more sediment they remove, the cleaner the harbor will be.

But the EPA’s cleanup plan for New Bedford Harbor isn’t removing enough of this contamination. In some parts of the harbor, the EPA is planning to leave behind 50 times more toxic pollution than it has in similar waterway cleanups in other parts of the country.

The bottom line? New Bedford Harbor is getting one of the worst PCB cleanups of its kind in America. That’s just plain wrong.

If this cleanup is completed as planned, the entire harbor will still be off-limits to fishing and shellfishing. No one should be satisfied with a “cleanup” plan like that.

Local residents deserve a clean, safe harbor, and they’ve waited far too long for it. We must urge the EPA to give New Bedford Harbor the best possible cleanup.

Leave a legacy of clean water for future generations

sunset over New Bedford HarborCorporations that polluted New Bedford Harbor have deprived the community of clean water for decades. We can’t allow the EPA to sentence our children and grandchildren to the same fate by using cost-cutting techniques that won’t guarantee a safe, clean harbor in the future.

Until this point, the EPA has been shipping PCB-contaminated sediment away from New Bedford to a safe, secure disposal facility in Michigan. But now the EPA is planning to use a new method to get rid of contaminated sediment – by keeping it right here in New Bedford, buried in an underwater pit called a Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) cell.

A CAD cell might save a small amount of time and money. But it hasn’t been proven to keep the level of toxic pollution found in New Bedford Harbor away for good. That’s why the Coalition is working to find the answer. With funding from an EPA Technical Assistance Grant, we are collaborating with a University of Connecticut scientist to study CAD cells and determine if this cleanup technique is the best choice for the harbor and the community.

The EPA is also planning to “clean up” the harbor by burying contaminated sediment directly along New Bedford Harbor’s shoreline within large, bulkheaded cells called Confined Disposal Facilities (CDFs). These CDFs containing toxic pollution would be in plain view to anybody who visits New Bedford’s waterfront.

In 2013, we took our fight for a clean New Bedford Harbor to court. That year, a federal court approved a $366 million settlement between the EPA and AVX, the largest company responsible for PCB pollution in New Bedford Harbor. We filed a motion to intervene in this settlement, arguing that $366 million is not nearly enough to fully clean up the harbor.

Our children and grandchildren deserve the cleanest possible harbor: a place where they can play in a marsh, dig for quahogs at the shoreline, or simply stroll along the water and enjoy a beautiful view. That vision for the future can – and will – be a reality if we fight today for a full cleanup.

What You Can Do
Join our fight for a clean New Bedford Harbor by becoming a Coalition member today. You’ll join more than 8,000 others who support the Coalition’s efforts to protect clean water in New Bedford Harbor, the Acushnet River, and all of Buzzards Bay.

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