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New Bedford Harbor Sean Tepfer July 30, 2008. New Bedford Harbor Buzzard’s Bay Hurricane Wall.

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Presentation on theme: "New Bedford Harbor Sean Tepfer July 30, 2008. New Bedford Harbor Buzzard’s Bay Hurricane Wall."— Presentation transcript:

1 New Bedford Harbor Sean Tepfer July 30, 2008

2 New Bedford Harbor Buzzard’s Bay Hurricane Wall

3 Background City of New Bedford, MA originated as a fishing and whaling port in the early 19 th Century City of New Bedford, MA originated as a fishing and whaling port in the early 19 th Century Early 1900s: a variety of factories, textile mills, and fish processing plants lined the Acushnet River, a 1000 acre urban tidal estuary that served as the city’s main waterway. Early 1900s: a variety of factories, textile mills, and fish processing plants lined the Acushnet River, a 1000 acre urban tidal estuary that served as the city’s main waterway. No control on water pollution until the 1970s No control on water pollution until the 1970s

4 Water Pollution Local businesses used the river and adjacent New Bedford Harbor to dump industrial waste. Local businesses used the river and adjacent New Bedford Harbor to dump industrial waste. This led to this estuary and harbor to be one of the most polluted waterways in the country. This led to this estuary and harbor to be one of the most polluted waterways in the country. Specifically, the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Specifically, the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

5 PCBs PCBs are chlorinated, odorless, semi-volatile organic compounds characterized by high thermal and chemical stability. PCBs are chlorinated, odorless, semi-volatile organic compounds characterized by high thermal and chemical stability. The same characteristics that make them useful to industry also cause them to persist in the environment and if ingested, to accumulate in the fat cells of fish, animals and humans. The same characteristics that make them useful to industry also cause them to persist in the environment and if ingested, to accumulate in the fat cells of fish, animals and humans. They have low vapor pressure and are nearly insoluble in water. They adhere to soil or sediment and, at high concentrations, will become airborne and get into the rain and spread. They have low vapor pressure and are nearly insoluble in water. They adhere to soil or sediment and, at high concentrations, will become airborne and get into the rain and spread. Their manufacture was banned by the EPA in Their manufacture was banned by the EPA in 1978.

6 Effect of ban on economy High levels of PCBs in fish caused Mass. Dept of Public Health to impose fishing restrictions and prohibited lobstering. High levels of PCBs in fish caused Mass. Dept of Public Health to impose fishing restrictions and prohibited lobstering. Due to loss of fishing industry and subsistence opportunities, local economy suffered, which also led to loss of several local factories, thus compounding the problem. Due to loss of fishing industry and subsistence opportunities, local economy suffered, which also led to loss of several local factories, thus compounding the problem. By 1990, unemployment was up to 12%, 16.8% of the population was below the poverty level, less than half of kids finished high school, and 37% of the population spoke a language other than English at home (most were Portuguese). By 1990, unemployment was up to 12%, 16.8% of the population was below the poverty level, less than half of kids finished high school, and 37% of the population spoke a language other than English at home (most were Portuguese).

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8 EPA in the Area The EPA's Superfund program was established in 1980 to locate, investigate, and clean up hazardous waste sites throughout the United States. The EPA's Superfund program was established in 1980 to locate, investigate, and clean up hazardous waste sites throughout the United States. Gayle Garman, Project Manager at Region I of the EPA began studying the area as part of the Superfund. Gayle Garman, Project Manager at Region I of the EPA began studying the area as part of the Superfund.

9 EPA decides to clean-up Studies by EPA determined a very high concentration of PCBs in the harbor which became known as the “Hot Spot.” Studies by EPA determined a very high concentration of PCBs in the harbor which became known as the “Hot Spot.” Total mass of PCBs in the Hot Spot sediments was estimated at 120 tons. Total mass of PCBs in the Hot Spot sediments was estimated at 120 tons. Goal of clean up was to reduce PCB levels in various areas. Goal of clean up was to reduce PCB levels in various areas. Initially, improving conditions in the Hot Spot area was first priority due to health risks. Initially, improving conditions in the Hot Spot area was first priority due to health risks. Also, because the area is an estuary with constant water movement, the documented risk of spread from this area was high. Also, because the area is an estuary with constant water movement, the documented risk of spread from this area was high.

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11 EPA requirements by statute 1. Overall protection of human health and the environment. 2. Compliance with Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements (ARARs). 3. Long-term effectiveness and permanence. 4. Reduction of toxicity, mobility and volume. 5. Short-term effectiveness (during construction and implementation)

12 EPA requirements by statue (cont’d) 6. Ease of implementation, technical and administrative feasibility. 7. Cost. 8. State acceptance. 9. Community acceptance (gauged by public participation during comment periods and public meetings.

13 Clean-up Planning  Several alternatives were studied in accordance with EPA policy: 1)Dredging and on-site incineration 2)Removal, solidification and eventual disposal in an off site federally approved landfill 3) Dredging and treatment with solvent extraction 4)No action

14 Clean-up Planning All alternatives were evaluated using nine requirements under EPA statute All alternatives were evaluated using nine requirements under EPA statute Once decision by EPA was made, it was presented to the state and the community for review. Once decision by EPA was made, it was presented to the state and the community for review.

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16 CWG Looks at Alternatives  CWG examined the three most feasible options: 1)Dredging and subsequent incineration to destroy PCBs in the sediments 2)Dredging and treating and/or burying the sediments 3)Capping the sediments

17 Decision to Dredge and Incinerate  In 1990, CWG put the alternatives to a vote and the 9 members present voted 6-3 for dredging and on-site incineration followed by on site disposal of the treated sediment (incinerator ash)

18 EPA’s Decision  EPA evaluated against their nine requirements and chose that removal and incineration of contaminated Hot Spot sediments to protect public health and the environment and to permanently reduce the migration of contaminants throughout the harbor site was the best method.

19 Possible results If properly performed, % of PCBs would be removed. There was the possibility if the incineration was not performed properly, other toxins (lead and cadmium) could be released to the environment. If properly performed, % of PCBs would be removed. There was the possibility if the incineration was not performed properly, other toxins (lead and cadmium) could be released to the environment. Some members of CWG were concerned about this. Some members of CWG were concerned about this. EPA said safety equipment would shut down incinerator if this occurred. EPA said safety equipment would shut down incinerator if this occurred.

20 Dissenting Voices Emerge EPA and Mayor believed community was represented by CWG and all that was left was education and implementation. EPA and Mayor believed community was represented by CWG and all that was left was education and implementation. They recognized a small minority who disagreed with incineration, but believed they would wane and that they were not representative of community at large. They recognized a small minority who disagreed with incineration, but believed they would wane and that they were not representative of community at large.

21 HARC Hands Across the River Coalition (HARC) was born when small opposition leaders began advocating that the federal govt. was trying to push a quick, cheap fix to the problem which was being implemented on a minority non-English speaking group in their community. Hands Across the River Coalition (HARC) was born when small opposition leaders began advocating that the federal govt. was trying to push a quick, cheap fix to the problem which was being implemented on a minority non-English speaking group in their community. This group regarded science as an elitist discipline and the EPA as a group of government elitists. This group regarded science as an elitist discipline and the EPA as a group of government elitists.

22 Results of HARC HARC initiated a letter writing campaign to local, state and federal officials including EPA Project Manager Garman. HARC initiated a letter writing campaign to local, state and federal officials including EPA Project Manager Garman. The group became stronger, larger and more powerful through use of monthly protests on the bridge and distribution of flyers. The group became stronger, larger and more powerful through use of monthly protests on the bridge and distribution of flyers. Residents believed they were being railroaded into accepting an inappropriate risk. Residents believed they were being railroaded into accepting an inappropriate risk. September of charges of toxic racism were appearing in the pages of the Boston Globe as well as accusations that the EPA was exposing New Bedford to risks it would not impose on a more affluent, white community. September of charges of toxic racism were appearing in the pages of the Boston Globe as well as accusations that the EPA was exposing New Bedford to risks it would not impose on a more affluent, white community.

23 EPA Responds to HARC The EPA, felt that the community had become so confrontational, narrowly focused, and unwilling to compromise that they had forgotten the importance of cleanup to minimize ongoing and future risks to their health. The EPA, felt that the community had become so confrontational, narrowly focused, and unwilling to compromise that they had forgotten the importance of cleanup to minimize ongoing and future risks to their health. Garman and the EPA had invested years and millions of dollars to find the safest and most effective method of clean up. This represented a potential waste of millions of dollars when they could not start the project. Garman and the EPA had invested years and millions of dollars to find the safest and most effective method of clean up. This represented a potential waste of millions of dollars when they could not start the project.

24 HARC Gains Widespread Support Greenpeace and other environmental organizations claimed residents would be exposed to hundreds of toxic emissions which were carcinogenic, teratogenic, mutagenic and times more deadly than cyanide. This caused nearby communities to take interest in the issue. Greenpeace and other environmental organizations claimed residents would be exposed to hundreds of toxic emissions which were carcinogenic, teratogenic, mutagenic and times more deadly than cyanide. This caused nearby communities to take interest in the issue.

25 More Support for HARC By 1993 HARC was supported by US rep Barney Frank, Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy. They proposed that the Clinton administration stop the EPA. By 1993 HARC was supported by US rep Barney Frank, Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy. They proposed that the Clinton administration stop the EPA. Mass Dept of Environmental Protection became involved as the stalemate left tons of unprotected and untreated toxic waste in the harbor. Mass Dept of Environmental Protection became involved as the stalemate left tons of unprotected and untreated toxic waste in the harbor. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began to take notice of issue (NOAA) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began to take notice of issue (NOAA)

26 Gaining community support By mid-1993, over 100 residents packed city hall chambers and pushed for city ordinance to ban incineration. By mid-1993, over 100 residents packed city hall chambers and pushed for city ordinance to ban incineration. The prospect of a lengthy, costly, and highly confrontational litigation was not appealing to anyone at the EPA especially with a relatively new Presidential administration. The prospect of a lengthy, costly, and highly confrontational litigation was not appealing to anyone at the EPA especially with a relatively new Presidential administration. EPA was confident they could win a lawsuit. They also did not believe that HARC had resources for an extended lawsuit. EPA was confident they could win a lawsuit. They also did not believe that HARC had resources for an extended lawsuit. Garman became frustrated because no one seemed to understand that the longer the clean up was delayed, the longer the residents were exposed. Garman became frustrated because no one seemed to understand that the longer the clean up was delayed, the longer the residents were exposed.

27 City Ordinance  On July 15, 1993 New Bedford City Council passed a city ordinance, “prohibiting the transport [of] ovens, incinerators, mobile incinerators, mobile water treatments plants, devices or mechanisms of any kind used in incineration or water treatment through the streets, air space or waterways of New Bedford.”

28 EPA Response to Ordinance Garman checked with local authorities to see if they intended to enforce the ordinance. Garman checked with local authorities to see if they intended to enforce the ordinance. Local police told her that they would not block the roadway, in fact, the New Bedford City Solicitor had advised them not to enforce the ordinance. Local police told her that they would not block the roadway, in fact, the New Bedford City Solicitor had advised them not to enforce the ordinance. The Solicitor did not believe that the ordinance was constitutional. The Solicitor did not believe that the ordinance was constitutional.

29 EPA Higher Up Reaction  Higher ups in the EPA encouraged Garman to send in the trucks with US Marshals as their escort, but she declined as it would only create greater controversy.

30 Garman’s Frustration  Garman was frustrated because she felt an open and honest dialogue had been done with the community through the CWG.  Now, opposition groups refused to engage in dialogue with her or the EPA.  She continued to be frustrated as the longer the clean up was delayed, the more PCBs would make it into the open ocean, as well as more PCBs in the harbor would be released into the air.

31 Community’s Frustration Community could only focus on fears of results of incineration. Community could only focus on fears of results of incineration. They had been living for decades with the PCBs in the harbor and the EPA had been planning their clean up for at least ten years. They had been living for decades with the PCBs in the harbor and the EPA had been planning their clean up for at least ten years. They could not understand why a delay of a few months or even a year or two would be a problem. They could not understand why a delay of a few months or even a year or two would be a problem.

32 The Conflict Escalates EPA filed a lawsuit against the city of New Bedford regarding the ordinance. EPA filed a lawsuit against the city of New Bedford regarding the ordinance. In addition, they informed the city that regulations allowed them to fine the city up to $25,000/day for causing the delay in the clean up. In addition, they informed the city that regulations allowed them to fine the city up to $25,000/day for causing the delay in the clean up.

33 HARC’s Response HARC filed a civil suit against the EPA for negligence in their failure to hold public hearings when planning the clean up. HARC filed a civil suit against the EPA for negligence in their failure to hold public hearings when planning the clean up. They also filed their intention to file a federal lawsuit alleging the EPA was violating the civil rights of the citizens of New Bedford. They also filed their intention to file a federal lawsuit alleging the EPA was violating the civil rights of the citizens of New Bedford.

34 Deadlock Following all of this back and forth legal action, a Federal judge ordered the City to allow the EPA full access to the site until a formal hearing could be held later in the fall. Following all of this back and forth legal action, a Federal judge ordered the City to allow the EPA full access to the site until a formal hearing could be held later in the fall. This court order allowed the wastewater treatment equipment to pass through the city, without opposition. This court order allowed the wastewater treatment equipment to pass through the city, without opposition. Garman and others at EPA were still confident they would easily win any lawsuit. Garman and others at EPA were still confident they would easily win any lawsuit.

35 An Intervention  US Rep. Barney Frank began threatening the Clinton administration with a vote against crucial NAFTA legislation in late 1993 unless the President got the EPA to reevaluate the project. He was backed up by Senators Kerry and Kennedy.

36 EPA Response This situation had degenerated and the EPA’s original goals: protecting human health and minimizing ongoing contamination of the harbor’s ecosystem would be poorly served in an ongoing legal battle. This situation had degenerated and the EPA’s original goals: protecting human health and minimizing ongoing contamination of the harbor’s ecosystem would be poorly served in an ongoing legal battle. As a result, EPA Administrator, Carol Browner, directed EPA leaders in the region to address the community opposition. As a result, EPA Administrator, Carol Browner, directed EPA leaders in the region to address the community opposition. An informal round table was proposed to improve the public’s knowledge of the incineration issues, but community leaders were still skeptical. An informal round table was proposed to improve the public’s knowledge of the incineration issues, but community leaders were still skeptical.

37 The Forum Facing additional pressure from the Mayor of New Bedford, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection and various state politicians, Browner directed Garman to engage a third party mediator to help resolve the dispute. Facing additional pressure from the Mayor of New Bedford, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection and various state politicians, Browner directed Garman to engage a third party mediator to help resolve the dispute. This decision was definitely a “political decision” rather than one based on the technical benefits to human health. This decision was definitely a “political decision” rather than one based on the technical benefits to human health.

38 ODR The Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) contacted the Mass. Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR), a state agency specializing in conflict resolution, and asked for assistance in selecting a mediator and identifying the stakeholders. The Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) contacted the Mass. Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR), a state agency specializing in conflict resolution, and asked for assistance in selecting a mediator and identifying the stakeholders. The ODR took over planning and organizing the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site Community Forum (referred to as the Forum) and identified seven major groups as the primary stakeholders: The ODR took over planning and organizing the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site Community Forum (referred to as the Forum) and identified seven major groups as the primary stakeholders:

39 Stakeholders  Three citizen’s groups (HARC and two other neighboring community groups)  Elected town officials  The Office of the Mayor of New Bedford  Elected state officials  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  The DEP  The EPA.

40 Mediation After a long series of interviews with representatives from each stakeholder, J. Michael Keating was selected by consensus as the mediator. After a long series of interviews with representatives from each stakeholder, J. Michael Keating was selected by consensus as the mediator. The first meeting with the mediator and stakeholders was finally held on 12/7/93, five months after the city ordinance had been passed. The first meeting with the mediator and stakeholders was finally held on 12/7/93, five months after the city ordinance had been passed. Keating was able to establish better communication and less hostility between groups. Keating was able to establish better communication and less hostility between groups.

41 The Forum’s Involvement Garman and others argued that the decision of what method to use to cleanup the harbor was no longer one of what was the best scientific method, but what was the best political method. Garman and others argued that the decision of what method to use to cleanup the harbor was no longer one of what was the best scientific method, but what was the best political method. The Forum became instrumental in the decision of how to clean up the harbor. The Forum became instrumental in the decision of how to clean up the harbor.

42 Garman’s Departure Garman became frustrated with the fact that all of these delays caused further exposure to the community. Garman became frustrated with the fact that all of these delays caused further exposure to the community. As a result, she resigned from the EPA and joined NOAA in Seattle, WA. As a result, she resigned from the EPA and joined NOAA in Seattle, WA. She was replaced by David Dickerson who continued to show preference for incineration. However, HARC and other community leaders continued to oppose this course of action. She was replaced by David Dickerson who continued to show preference for incineration. However, HARC and other community leaders continued to oppose this course of action.

43 Victory? for HARC  In September of 1995, the EPA accepted what seemed inevitable and abandoned all plans to incinerate harbor sediments.  This seemed to be a victory for some, the Forum now faced the daunting task of selecting an alternative treatment technology, as well as overseeing the second stage of the cleanup effort.

44 WHAT HAPPENED?????? Dredging of the 14,000 cubic yards of sediment from the 5 acre hot spot areas was accomplished from April 1994 to September 1995, with the dredged sediment temporarily stored in a lined and covered holding pond. Dredging of the 14,000 cubic yards of sediment from the 5 acre hot spot areas was accomplished from April 1994 to September 1995, with the dredged sediment temporarily stored in a lined and covered holding pond. Seawater removed during the dredging process was treated on scene and returned to the harbor. Seawater removed during the dredging process was treated on scene and returned to the harbor.

45 Update cont’d In April 1999, EPA changed alternatives to dewatering and off-site landfilling as the final component for the hot spot remediation. In April 1999, EPA changed alternatives to dewatering and off-site landfilling as the final component for the hot spot remediation. Transportation of the hot spot sediment to an offsite TSCA permitted landfill started in December 1999 and was completed in May Transportation of the hot spot sediment to an offsite TSCA permitted landfill started in December 1999 and was completed in May Same practices have continued to local areas outside of the “Hot Spot” beginning in 2004 and continuing to the present. Same practices have continued to local areas outside of the “Hot Spot” beginning in 2004 and continuing to the present. In 2005, capping was begun. In 2005, capping was begun.

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47 Discussion Questions What could Garman and other EPA officials have done to ensure community support from the start? What could Garman and other EPA officials have done to ensure community support from the start? Should HARC and other community organizations been able to change the scientifically proven best path for the project? Should HARC and other community organizations been able to change the scientifically proven best path for the project? What should have been the involvement of Rep. Frank as well as Senators Kerry and Kennedy? What should have been the involvement of Rep. Frank as well as Senators Kerry and Kennedy? Was it better to have a best political solution rather than the best solution? Was it better to have a best political solution rather than the best solution?


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