Posted on April 27, 2017
By Wesley Sykes, SouthCoastTODAY
Following suit with Mayor Jon Mitchell and state Reps. Bill Straus, D-Mattapoisett, and Robert Koczera, D-New Bedford, selectmen will also send a letter of recommendation in favor of Phase V dredging in the New Bedford Harbor to the Baker-Polito administration.
In March, the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission presented an economic impact study from Martin Associates, a research firm, saying the Port of New Bedford contributes 2 percent of the Commonwealth’s entire Gross State Product, generating $9 billion in direct and indirect economic activity and employing 6,200 workers with an average salary of $57,000. Additionally, the potential impact of dredging the harbor would create 898 permanent jobs, $65.1 million in annual wages and local consumption and $11.5 million in state and local tax revenue, the study said.
Selectman Robert Espindola shared a letter from Ed Anthes-Washburn, port director of the New Bedford Harbor, outlining similar numbers from the economic impact study. Anthes-Washburn could not attend the meeting due to a prior commitment.
“If the numbers are accurate, and I’m sure they are, I can’t see how we cannot do it,” Selectman Daniel Freitas said.
Selectman Charles Murphy added, “That’s a lot of impact to our community.”
The motion made on Monday to draft a letter to be reviewed at the next Board of Selectmen meeting May 1 passed unanimously.
The discussion was not without opposition, however, as Karen Vilandry, president of the Hands Across the River Coalition Inc. and a Fairhaven resident, aired concerns. They included health and environmental ramifications of dredging and the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or an organic chlorine compound, that will be capped in the harbor in CAD cells as opposed to being moved to offsite disposal grounds.
“I know the EPA is doing its best to clean up, but it’s not cleaning up,” Vilandry said. “It’s moving contamination around the harbor closer to Fairhaven residents. We weren’t the ones who contaminated the harbor, yet our residents are being exposed to PCBs in the air.”
Citing a study by the University of Iowa, Vilandry said sediment contaminated with PCBs from the bottom of the New Bedford Harbor is the number one source of airborne PCBs in the neighborhoods surrounding the port.
Freitas and Murphy both stood by the letter citing job creation and the overall revenue dredging would bring. But they did opt to draft an additional letter to the EPA asking the agency to outline any concerns it had about the process and how to address such concerns.