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$5.38 Million Settlement Proposed for Pollution in Gloucester, MA

JULY 17, 2023 — On July 12, 2023, a $5.38 million settlement was proposed in Federal District Court to restore natural resources impacted by contaminants discharged along the Gloucester, Massachusetts waterfront.

Gloucester Harbor in 2012. (Doug Kerr/Wikimedia Commons)
Gloucester Harbor in 2012. (Doug Kerr/Wikimedia Commons)

The pollution came from a manufactured gas plant that operated along the Gloucester waterfront between 1854 and 1952. The gas plant used industrial processes to produce manufactured gas from coal and oil. Manufactured gas plants, which were common before the development of the region’s natural gas pipelines, often yielded by-products of the gas production process such as tars, sludges, and oils. Production at the gas plant ended in the early 1950s and ownership changed to the North Shore Gas Company, a predecessor of the current owner, National Grid.

These types of hazardous chemicals contaminated soils and groundwater, as well as sediment, in the adjacent Gloucester Harbor. These pollutants posed risks to fish, wildlife and sediment-dwelling species that depend upon this area for habitat.

National Grid worked with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to clean up contamination from the former gas plant. The cleanup, which began in 2015, included removal of contaminated soils, sediment, and groundwater, capping of some park and harbor areas with clean fill, and construction of a new seawall to protect the harbor. All cleanup activities were concluded in 2017.

The draft consent decree provides a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) restoration settlement value of $5,380,000, including $5,300,000 for restoration projects and $68,000 to reimburse the trustees for the remaining portion of past damage assessment costs. DOJ will accept public comments on the Agreement for 30 days, through August 11, 2023. The trustees will work with the public to identify and select potential restoration projects. An example of a potential project is the restoration and enhancement of degraded coastal wetlands near Gloucester Harbor. A restoration plan will be drafted and released for public comment in the months after the settlement is finalized.

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Last updated Monday, June 10, 2024 5:18am PDT