By Beth David, Editor
Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency attended the Fairhaven Selectboard meeting on Monday, 7/11, to answer questions from residents and explain why the EPA was seeking permission to access the shore from town owned property on Oxford and Veranda streets.
About 15 residents attended the meeting, mostly to register their opposition to the testing. Some with abutting properties have refused to give the EPA permission to enter their properties to conduct the sampling. The sampling is part of the ongoing cleanup of New Bedford Harbor, a superfund site with a high concentration of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
The issue came up at a previous meeting and the Selectboard continued the issue so that EPA officials could address concerns. Residents were encouraged to submit questions in writing.
EPA Team Leader Ginny Lombardo summarized the questions and answers from the public, then took questions.
Community Involvement Coordinator Kelsey O’Neil told residents that the testing has been ongoing, but probably not noticed by homeowners because it is not distruptive.
“It should not interfere at all with your day to day,” said Ms. O’Neil.
Matt Fitzpatrick, a research scientist with the Memorial Institute, showed the long handled hand tool used to collect the samples in a clear tube.
“It’s a very clean operation,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick. “We don’t use any heavy equipment.”
Residents, however, said they were not worried about the current testing, they were worried about the remediation efforts if a problem was found.
Both Ms. Lomdardo and Ms. O’Neil acknowledged that the wording of some agreements to let the EPA on private property made things sound very dire. They said that the testing so far had shown levels way below anything that would need remediation. If that were the case, a plan would be worked out with the homeowner and the town if necessary.
Ms. Lombardo also admitted to getting “worked up,” over questions about “ambient air.”
She said unequivically, that there was no risk of PCBs in the air.
Karen Vilandry, president of the Hands Across the River Coalition (HARC), was reminded that she submitted 10 questions by Selectboard chair Charles Murphy.
Ms. Vilandry said that she was concerned about a local group that cleaned up the shoreline. She said there are no-fishing signs, but nothing that warns people to stay off the beach.
Ms. Lomdardo said that no signs were necessary because the levels were “well below” the levels allowed for recreational use. She said there was “no risk” to anyone cleaning up the beach, or recreating there.
She also said that all the testing information was on the website.
The board approved the access unanimously.
For more information on the harbor cleanup, visit https://www. epa.gov/new-bedford-harbor