The Port of New Bedford and the Town of Fairhaven are managing one of the most significant dredging projects in the history of the New Bedford/Fairhaven Harbor. The Phase V Dredging Project will not only allow one of the most thriving working waterfronts on the east coast to continue growing, but will remove an additional 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment that otherwise would have remained in place.
Routine navigational dredging is integral to the efficiency and productivity of any working waterfront. This project will allow dozens of local waterfront-based businesses in Fairhaven and New Bedford the opportunity to expand, grow, and hire new employees.
A 2018 study by Martin Associates found that the Phase V Dredging Project will create almost 900 new and permanent jobs, creating $69.4 million in annual wages, and $12.5 million in additional state and local taxes.
Due to legacy contamination from decades past, the top three feet of the entire harbor has some amount of PCB and other contamination (click here for more information about the EPA’s Harbor Cleanup). The sediment dredged through this project is below the EPA’s threshold of 50 mg/kg PCB contamination and therefore far less contaminated than the sediment dredged under the EPA’s Superfund program. Without the navigational dredging program, this sediment would remain in the harbor environment, forever contaminating fish and other marine life and adding to human risks. This project will clean approximately 3,000,000 SF of New Bedford/Fairhaven Harbor.
Through the Phase V Dredging project, a confined aquatic disposal (CAD) cell will be constructed north of Pope’s Island. A CAD cell is designed to safely contain contaminated sediment buried below the harbor floor. Once the CAD cell is full, it is capped with clean sand and is continuously monitored for several years after the project is completed. This CAD cell will be the seventh constructed north of Pope’s Island since 2003.
As the CAD cell is being constructed and while contaminated material is being put into the CAD cell, it is contained by a silt curtain to prevent leakage of contaminated material. The contamination levels of the material placed in the CAD cell are actually less than the harbor bottom in that area.
The location of the CAD cell was determined by:
- The geographic boundaries within which any CAD cell must be constructed in the harbor, as determined by the state and federal government
- The availability of space left in the harbor in relation to the other CAD cells that have been constructed
- Geotechnical specifications including the depth before reaching rock
Dredging and Air Monitoring
The EPA has monitored the air quality at locations around the harbor since they began their Superfund cleanup, and they have never exceeded federal air quality standards. The New Bedford Port Authority and Town of Fairhaven, in collaboration with the EPA, will continue to monitor air quality throughout the Phase V project.
The EPA’s greatest concern remains the PCB contamination of marine life, which has resulted in restrictions on consuming fish, lobster and shellfish harvested from the inner and outer harbor. These restrictions will remain in place until PCB levels decrease in seafood.
Relationship to EPA Superfund Cleanup
The Phase V Dredging Project is complementary to the work the EPA has done since the 1990s to clean up the harbor under the Superfund Program. The 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment cleaned up under the Phase V project is in addition to the contaminated sediment cleaned up by the EPA. Without the Phase V project, the EPA would not have been required to clean up the additional areas and the sediment would remain in place.
Once the project is complete, the area where the new CAD cell is located will be capped with clean sandy material and will be one of the cleanest in the harbor. The NBPA and Town of Fairhaven will be conducting annual monitoring of the capped CAD cell, including bathymetric surveys, chemical sampling and faunal surveys using divers. Monitoring programs on previously-installed CAD Cell Caps show no contamination has migrated through the cap.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please call the New Bedford Port Authority at (508) 961-3000.
In case of waterway access issues or waterway emergencies related to this project, please contact Assistant Harbormaster Paul Fonseca at 774-328-0414 or Fairhaven Harbormaster Timothy Cox at 508-962-1416
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