Owners of the contaminated waterfront site in New Bedford, Massachusetts are being urged by state legislators from Greater New Bedford to come up with more specific plans for the future of the site of the failed casino bid.
Representatives of Sprague, Eversource and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) met in Boston on Wednesday with all five state representatives from the city and surrounding areas. The meeting was the first time all of the parties met since the DEP received a letter in July from legislators saying that in light of the casino project’s failure they expected the state to “vigorously pursue and insist upon remediation at the site,” according to South Coast Today. The site’s high cleanup costs are considered a deterrent by lawmakers to potential new development and they suggest that Eversource and Sprague Energy, who each own a portion of the 29-acre waterfront site, foot the bill.
The site was once a tar processing facility and manufactured gas plant, just south of downtown. The waterfront portion of the facility is used by Sprague as a bulk petroleum terminal. Eversource’s portion is used as its regional center for Greater New Bedford and employs approximately 100 workers. Had the $650 million casino resort deal been successful, an approximate $50 million site cleanup was planned by New York developer KG Urban. The developer also planned to allocate upwards of $15 million to relocate Eversource’s facilities elsewhere in the city.
Part of the $10 million spent by KG Urban Advisors over the eight years it campaigned for the New Bedford harbor casino resort paid for a 2009 report by TRC Environmental Corp. of Lowell. The report indicated significant cleanup would be necessary in order to avoid opening a Pandora’s box of pollutants, if development of the site ever took place. The report lists worker’s potentially being exposed to “oil- and hazardous materials (OHM)-impacted soil by incidental ingestion, dermal contact and inhalation of dust and vapors released from soil,” among other contaminants. According to Mayor Jon Mitchell, amid the ongoing waterfront planning efforts by the city, in recent months the full TRC report was acquired from KG Urban after approval from Sprague and Eversource. New Bedford’s director of environmental stewardship, Michele Paul, said no danger exists of the spread of contaminants outside of the site. Michael Durand, spokesman for Eversource said the site “is in full compliance right now with DEP regulations for its current use.”
The parties were in agreement to meet again for more talks, possibly in April, said Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, Durand and State Rep. Bill Straus, D-Mattapoisett. Durand noted that depending on the future use of the waterfront site, remediation costs would vary. Development ideas for the site have been floated for decades.