BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection reached a settlement with AVX Corp. for $366.25 million plus interest for the cleanup of the Superfund site in New Bedford Harbor, the largest single site cash settlement in the history of the Superfund program.
The settlement, which followed an April 18 enforcement order issued by the EPA, will pave the way for expedited implementation of the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated sediment in the harbor site.
According to the EPA, PCBs are mixtures of up to 209 synthetic chlorinated compounds, which attach onto sediment particles and are resistant to biodegradation. PCBs are considered a probable carcinogen in humans.
The $366.25 million “cash-out” settlement will be paid to the United States and Massachusetts jointly and will be retained by the EPA for use at the harbor site.
“With this settlement, we are making good on our pledge to the citizens of New Bedford to help clean their harbor,” Curt Spalding, the regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office, said in a statement. “Cleanup work will proceed much faster with dedicated funding, and we will more rapidly be able to ensure that both human health and ecological health are being protected from exposure to PCBs in New Bedford Harbor.”
“Further, the settlement is consistent with EPA’s longstanding ‘polluter pays’ principle,” added Spalding.
The settlement, which resolves AVS’s remaining liabilities to pay for the costs of cleanup, will provide funding for continued action to remediate contamination, including dredging and properly disposing of PCB-contaminated sediment.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, AVX’s corporate predecessor Aerovox Corp. owned operated an electrical capacitor manufacturing facility on the western shore of New Bedford harbor. Aerovox discharged hazardous substances, including PCBs, into the harbor during that period and has been named the primary source of PCBs released into the harbor.
“Thanks to this record settlement, those who live and work along the harbor will see a significant reduction in risk to humans and the environment, and people will not have to wait decades to begin to enjoy the harbor’s natural resources,” Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement. “As the natural resources return to vitality, so will tourism, recreation and redevelopment for harbor-side communities.”
The $366.25 million settlement will provide the bulk of the funding needed to allow the EPA to completely clean up the Superfund site in five to seven years, according to the environmental watchdog agency’s release.
Comparatively, it would have taken an estimated 40 or more years to complete the remedy under the current funding of $15 million per year from the Superfund and payment of $1.5 million per year from Massachusetts.
The $366.25 million agreement, which was lodged Wednesday in Boston federal district court, will be published in the Federal Register and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the U.S. Federal Court.