Study: New Bedford Harbor is Source of Toxic Airborne PCBs
NEW BEDFORD - The Boston University Superfund Research Program has released the results of a years-long study concerning contamination in the New Bedford Harbor.
A press conference held Thursday at Riverside Park in New Bedford released those results, which Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays of Boston University says answers an important question. "The harbor is the source of the PCBs that we measure along the harbor," stated Dr. Heiger Bernays. "And this harbor is the largest reported source of PCBs in ambient air in North America that have been measured thus far."
Dr. Heiger-Bernays says the program measured air quality at 18 different sites in New Bedford, Fairhaven, Acushnet, and Dartmouth in the summer and fall of 2015, finding PCB measurements of 0.4 - 38 nanograms per cubic meter. The highest readings were taken from locations closest to the harbor. The readings were taken during a lull in the ongoing dredging of the harbor.
Dr. Heiger-Bernays says while there is a measurable presence of PCBs in the air near the harbor, there is no indication they present any health risks at this time. "These levels are significantly below the levels that EPA uses as their guidelines for acceptable inhalation concentrations."
A separate EPA-style risk assessment will be conducted by the end of the spring of this year, as funding for the National Institutes of Health for such studies will dry up before the start of the new fiscal year, and will likely not be renewed by the Trump administration.
In addition to the risk assessment, Boston University is also compiling data taken from 2016 while dredging of the New Bedford Harbor was taking place, to see if airborne PCB levels were elevated.
The study released today cost an estimated $100,000 and was funded through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The study was requested by the Hands Across the River Coalition.