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Case Summary: AVX Agrees to Pay $366,250,000 Towards the Clean-up of New Bedford Harbor, Mass.
On September 18, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts entered a settlement agreement between the United States, the State of Massachusetts, and AVX Corporation (AVX). Under the terms of the settlement, AVX agrees to pay $366.25 million, plus interest, for cleanup of the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site. These funds will be used by EPA to perform the cleanup of the Harbor.
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AVX is a Delaware corporation with it executive offices in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. AVX is the successor by merger of AVX Ceramics Corporation and Aerovox Corporation (Aerovox). Aerovox owned and operated the Aerovox Facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts from 1938 until 1973.
A busy commercial seaport, New Bedford Harbor is an 18,000-acre urban estuary located in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
New Bedford Harbor contains sediment highly contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. From the 1940s until EPA banned the production of PCBs in the 1970s, two manufacturing facilities improperly disposed of industrial wastes containing PCBs, contaminating the harbor bottom for about six miles from the Acushnet River into Buzzards Bay. The harbor was placed on EPA’s National Priorities List in 1982 and is one of EPA’s largest Superfund cleanup sites.
After extensive testing of water quality, harbor sediment, air quality and locally caught fish and shellfish, it was clear that the PCBs in the sediment posed a serious risk to human health and the environment. PCBs do not break down easily in the natural environment, and left untouched, continue to pose a risk within the local food chain. EPA's greatest concern is the possibility of people eating contaminated locally caught seafood. The build-up of PCB levels within the marine life has resulted in restrictions on fishing, shellfishing and lobstering in and around the harbor. These will remain in place until PCB levels decrease.
More information is available from the Agency's New Bedford Harbor site.
Following entry of the consent decree, AVX made the first of three payments in the amount of $133,350,000 million, plus interest. AVX’s second payment is due one year after the date of entry and the third payment will be due two years after the date of entry. Under the terms of the settlement AVX has the option of pre-paying any amounts before the due date.
The approval of the settlement by the court will mean that the enforcement action and settlement negotiations with AVX are complete, and subject to a few reservations of rights, AVX has resolved its liability for the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site with the federal and state governments. This is a “cash-out” settlement; there is no work to be performed by AVX, and the remedy selected in the 1998 Record of Decision, as modified by four Explanations of Significant Differences, has not changed.
This cash-out settlement has no effect on the selection of the remedy but will allow the Superfund cleanup of New Bedford Harbor to progress much more quickly. It also means that the primary party responsible for the contamination will be financing the rest of the Superfund cleanup rather than the taxpayers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460