Last week’s $366 million settlement with a company for its pollution of New Bedford Harbor, the largest in the three decades of the nation’s Superfund toxic cleanup program, is both something to be hailed and an unsettling symbol of the extent of prior decades of dumping in the name of industrial progress.
The money will come from AVX Corp., a South Carolina-based electronics components manufacturer. From the 1940s through the 1970s, AVX, then known as Aerovox, was the primary leaker of carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, into the Acushnet River, which empties into New Bedford’s harbor. Two decades ago, AVX paid $66 million in cleanup costs but the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Commonwealth reserved the right to ask for more money if that did not prove sufficient. It did not.