AG’s Office Asks Court to Accept $366 Million Agreement with AVX Corp. to Accelerate Cleanup of New Bedford Harbor
AG Coakley Files Joint Motion to Enter Consent Decree Following Public Comment Period; Settlement Will Remedy Site in 5-7 Years
BOSTON – In an effort to accelerate the cleanup of New Bedford harbor from decades of contamination, Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a joint motion today to approve a $366.25 million settlement with AVX Corporation. The settlement will expedite the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination and achieve cleanup goals within five to seven years, rather than 40 years under current funding levels.
The motion to enter a supplemental consent decree was filed today with the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. After announcing the settlement with AVX in October, the AG’s Office, along with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carefully reviewed and considered public comments prior to filing today’s motion.
“This settlement is an important result for public health, the environment, and the economy of New Bedford and the region,” AG Coakley said. “With a harbor free of PCB contamination, the City and its businesses can take greater advantage of the potential redevelopment opportunities in the area, building on the city’s vibrant history. We want to thank the MassDEP, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice for their coordination and collaboration throughout this process.”
“The AVX settlement, which may well be among the largest cleanup settlement of its kind, will bring enormous benefits to the communities around New Bedford harbor,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “The huge influx of funds will greatly accelerate the environmental cleanup and significantly reduce health and environmental impacts to the benefit of the local communities and the surrounding ecosystem.”
“The citizens of New Bedford have endured a protracted legal process stretching for decades now,” New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “For far too long, our potential as a city has been hampered by the lack of a final funding solution. For the first time, we are now poised to engage in an accelerated program of clean-up action so that residents alive today, not decades from now, will soon see measurable progress and enjoy conspicuous results. By any measure, the proposed $366 million is a monumental leap forward compared to the modest $15 million cleanup now implemented annually with federal funds.”
In the event the federal court approves the “cash-out” agreement with AVX Corp, a total of $366.25 million, plus interest, will be paid to the United States and the Commonwealth to provide more than 90 percent of estimated funding needed to complete the PCB cleanup at the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site. The cleanup includes dredging the PCB sediments and disposing of them at a mix of confined disposal facilities on-site, confined aquatic facilities on the harbor floor, and at off-site facilities. Currently, EPA is performing the remedy with close to $15 million of funding per year, including $1.5 million in cost-sharing funds provided by MassDEP. PCBs are suspected carcinogens and have other adverse human health and ecological impacts. Once the cleanup is completed, the New Bedford community, including adjacent property owners, is expected to realize significant economic benefits, including increased opportunities for sale or lease for redevelopment.
The 18,000-acre New Bedford Harbor Superfund site extends from the Acushnet River estuary, through the City of New Bedford commercial harbor, and into 17,000 acres of Buzzards Bay. The site is adjacent to former Aerovox facility at 740 Belleville Avenue, located along the Acushnet River, which was for decades a manufacturing facility utilizing PCBs for electrical equipment. AVX is a corporate successor to Aerovox Corporation, which operated at the facility from 1938 to 1973.
The settlement with AVX Corp. modifies the joint consent decree entered with AVX in 1992, in which AVX paid $66 million plus interest for response costs and natural resource damages at the site.
In a separate action, MassDEP is also overseeing AVX Corp’s cleanup of the former Aerovox facility under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan through an administrative consent order with MassDEP. This facility was a significant past source of harbor contamination.
For more information, see EPA’s website for the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site a: http://www2.epa.gov/new-bedford-harbor.