Natural Resource Damages Program PCB and Mercury Settlements | MassDEP

Some chemicals last a long time in our environment. They can build up in the bodies of fish that eat bugs that live in sediment. Examples are PCBs, a man-made chemical banned in 1979, and mercury, a natural element. Below are NRD settlement summaries.

New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site NRD Settlement

In 1992, Trustees settled NRDs claim with the responsible parties at the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site for $20.4 million. From the 1940s to the 1970s, manufacturers discharged wastes containing  PCBs and toxic metals into New Bedford Harbor. This contaminated hundreds of acres of sediment, harming the fish and wildlife of the Harbor and parts of Buzzards Bay. Eating fish and other wildlife became unsafe. Opportunities for fishing and shellfishing diminished.

From 1998 to 2011, the Trustees released a Restoration Plan and four Environmental Assessments. Following public review and comment on each, the Trustees selected restoration projects that helped restore:

  • Salt marshes

  • Freshwater wetlands

  • Eelgrass

  • Migratory Fish

  • Terns

  • Access to the waterfront

Also, over 700 acres of land have been preserved.

Trustees include the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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General Electric/Housatonic River NRD Settlement

In 2000, Trustees entered into a $15 million NRD settlement with General Electric. From the 1930s to the 1970s, GE used PCBs in the manufacture of electrical transformers in Pittsfield. Wastewater and stormwater systems released PCBs into Silver Lake and the Housatonic River from 1932 to 1977.

PCBs contaminated surface water, sediments, and floodplain soils. Eating fish and other wildlife from the River became unsafe. This reduced the quality of habitat for fish, amphibians, reptiles, other aquatic organisms, birds, and mammals. Opportunities for fishing diminished.

The Trustees targeted half of the settlement for restoration projects in Massachusetts. From 2007 to 2013, the Trustees released a Programmatic Environmental Assessment and 3 Restoration Plans. Following public review and comment on each, the Trustees selected restoration projects in four categories:

  • Aquatic Biological Resources and Habitat

  • Wildlife Resources and Habitat

  • Recreation Uses

  • Environmental Education and Outreach

A fourth Restoration Plan will be prepared for public review and comment.

The MA SubCouncil of the Housatonic River Trustee Council includes MassDEP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Nyanza Superfund Site NRD Settlement

In 1998, Trustees settled NRD claims with the responsible parties at the Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump Superfund Site for $3 million. From 1917 to 1978, companies that operated on the Site in Ashland produced textile dyes. The process generated industrial wastes that contaminated groundwater and the downstream Sudbury River.

Mercury contaminated surface water, soils and sediments. This reduced the quality of habitat for fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Eating fish from the river became unsafe. Opportunities for fishing diminished.

In 2012, the Trustees released a Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment. Following public review and comment on each, the Trustees selected 12 restoration projects in three categories:

  • Aquatic Biological Resources

  • Riparian and Floodplain Resources

  • Recreation and Public Access

The Trustee Council includes MassDEP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Former Fireworks 21E Site NRD Settlement

In 2010 and 2014, the Commonwealth Trustee received a total of $6.8 million for NRD as part of the Anadarko fraud case for the Former Fireworks Site in Hanover. The Site is a 300-acre former munitions manufacturing, testing and disposal facility. Mercury contaminated soils and sediments in the Drinkwater and Indian Head Rivers. Eating fish from the river became unsafe.

A Restoration Plan will be prepared for public review and comment.

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