An infusion of funds through a federally negotiated settlement with Greenville, S.C.-based AVX Corp., if approved by a federal court, will slash the cleanup schedule for the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site in Massachusetts, officials say.

Justice Dept. officials announced on Oct. 10 that AVX had agreed to pay more than $366 million to help pay for the cleanup at the New Bedford site. The settlement is the largest ever negotiated for a Superfund site and should reduce the expected time frame for the remaining cleanup to five to seven years from 40 years, according to the Justice Dept.

The project involves dredging sediment contaminated with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, and depositing it in a confined aquatic disposal (CAD) cell in the lower harbor and in other facilities to be constructed along the shore.

To date, contractors on the site have been able to work up to only 45 days a year because of limited funding, says Elaine Stanley, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's remedial project manager for the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site. Annual funding has been limited to approximately $16.5 million a year in Superfund and commonwealth dollars, she says.

The additional funds from AVX, paid out in three installments over two years, will mean that contractors on the site will be able to do more of the work simultaneously. The work includes hydraulic dredging along the lower harbor, mechanical dredging along the shoreline and constructing additional navigational CAD cells, Stanley says.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the construction manager. The contractors primarily responsible for the cleanup are Jacobs Engineering and Tetra Tech, both based in Pasadena, Calif. Niagara Falls, N.Y.-based Sevenson is performing the dredging.

From the late 1940s through the late 1970s, an Aerovox Corp. electrical-capacitor plant located on the northern end of the inner harbor discharged hazardous substances including PCBs, contaminating sediment, according to federal and state officials.

The settlement follows an April 18 EPA administrative order directing AVX to carry out the rest of the harbor cleanup.

AVX is the successor to Aerovox. AVX stated that Aerovox is "an alleged legal predecessor" and says AVX has never produced the type of capacitor that caused the contamination.