County ponders PCB pact
wants to explore its financial options
Press-Gazette Door County bureau
STURGEON BAY Now that millions of dollars are materializing
to address the PCB pollution problem in local waters, Door
County officials are interested in their share of the pie.
appears we are the left-out stepsister here, so to speak,
County Board member Charlie Jarman said Wednesday in a
meeting of the Land Conservation Committee.
The committee agreed that Door County should seek more
detailed information about how the state arrived at its
recent $16.1 million settlement with Georgia-Pacific Corp.
and how the money will address damages to the areas
environment and fishing and tourism industries. It also
considered drafting a resolution calling for a public
hearing on the settlement.
Some parts of the settlement address water quality in
the bay of Green Bay that borders Door Countys western
shore. But most of it would go toward recreation facilities
in Brown County, where the Fox Rivers paper mills
were once a major source of PCBs that now contaminate
the bay and all of Lake Michigan.
Committee member John Neinas of Brussels said he thinks
Door County should seek any money it can get, but he believes
the state and paper companies involved in the settlement
will be reluctant to open a door to claims by hundreds
of local governments that border affected waters.
Committee Chairman Roger Kuhns of Egg Harbor said he may
draft a resolution calling for Door County to be included
in future discussions about the settlement, but the committee
took no formal action Wednesday. County staff members
agreed to meet with the Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources on possible Door County projects.
Door Countys officials met partly at the urging
of Rebecca Katers, executive director of the Clean Water
Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin. George Boronow,
the DNRs lower Fox River Basin supervisor, also
attended the meeting at the invitation of the committee.
County gets very little of this, and the total money is
not enough, Katers told the committee.
Boronow said, I think Door County is benefiting,
but I certainly think they could benefit more in the future.
The settlement was announced by the DNR on June 20 for
PCB-related natural resource damages to the Fox River
and bay of Green Bay. The settlement is currently in a
public comment period. After that, a federal judge must
approve the settlement.
A final restoration plan will be released soon, Boronow
said. He said later settlements could widen the scope
of areas that benefit.
Proposed projects currently include $8.5 million for parks,
boat launches and other recreational projects along the
Fox River in Brown County, and for restoring fish and
wildlife habitat in the river and in the bay of Green
Bay. Also included is another $6 million to buy 1,063
acres along the Peshtigo River and northwest shore of
Jerry Viste, executive director of Door County Environmental
Council Inc., suggested an escrow fund to help pay for
future PCB cleanups as the substance continues to move
and flow through the bottoms of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
Dredging in small harbors and marinas could become very
expensive if the sediment is contaminated, he said.
will happen in 50 years if these paper companies are absolved
of liability? Who will pay for problems we encounter later,
if the cleanup is not final? Viste said.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were released into
the river by seven area paper mills in the 1950s, 60s
and 70s. They have been implicated in a wide range
of health problems in humans and wildlife. Particularly
hard hit has been commercial and sport fishing industries
because PCBs build up in fish.
Katers has said the settlement is too small, and cited
a Fish and Wildlife study released in 2000 that pegged
damage claims at $176 million to $333 million, depending
on the efficacy of final PCB cleanup.
Georgia-Pacifics share of the larger number would
be about $73 million, Katers said, adding that the settlement
was crafted to placate local officials in the only densely
populated area of Northeastern Wisconsin at the expense
of areas like Door County, which could also lay claim
to natural resource damages.