Final Fox River cleanup plan detailed
Cost of removing PCBs in sediment: $310 million
By JO SANDIN
Article courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Oct. 1, 2001
Dredging, capping, landfilling and even an experimental
technique for melting PCB-polluted sediments into glass
all are part of a long-awaited final cleanup plan for
the Fox River expected to be unveiled today in Green Bay.
The proposed $310 million plan calls for the removal
of about 7.25 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment
containing more than 64,200 pounds of PCBs from the lower
The plan divides the river into four sections, three
of which would be dredged to remove the contamination,
according to the DNR's Web site. The fourth area, between
Appleton and Little Rapids, would not be dredged. Instead,
the PCBs levels would be monitored in that part of the
The plan also calls for removing the water and stabilizing
the dredged sediment from the river, and disposing of
it off-site at licensed solid-waste disposal facilities,
including a possible new disposal facility in the Fox
The proposal, if carried out, would result in the cleanup
of sediments that would lead directly to the protection
of human health and the environment, the DNR said.
Environmental organizations, government agencies, tribal
representatives and residents all have been waiting for
a plan to clean up the contaminated river since 1999,
when a preliminary feasibility study was released to heated
Last year, 10,000 residents of northeastern Wisconsin
signed a petition calling for "a strong cleanup plan that
fully protects the health of humans and wildlife."
DNR officials think the latest plan does just that.
"DNR and EPA's goal is for the cleanup action to result
in the removal of all fish consumption advisories, and
the protection of the fish and wildlife that use the Fox
River and Green Bay," the DNR said on its Web site. "The
agencies believe this proposed plan will be protective
of human health and the environment, provide long-term
effectiveness, comply with state and federal environmental
regulations, be implementable and cost effective."
The plan does not detail how the paper mills will pay
for the cleanup project.
Appleton Papers Inc. reached an agreement with environmental
officials in June to put up $40 million over the next
four years to begin paying for its portion of the cleanup.
DNR spokesman Greg Swanson said negotiations with the
other six mills are continuing.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are a family of 209
chemicals that have been shown to pollute the food chain.
PCBs were used for years in making carbonless copy paper.
The substances were discharged into the river by two mills
making the paper and by five that recycled such paper
and were discharged into the river along with other mill
PCBs accumulate in organisms eaten by invertebrates eaten
by waterfowl and fish, and eventually in humans who eat
the fowl and fish.
According to Rebecca Katers, executive director of the
Clean Water Action Council in Green Bay, scientific studies
by private and public researchers have shown that PCBs
can damage the immune system, reduce intelligence and
change children's behavior.
Health advisories warning of dangers from consuming too
many meals of PCB-contaminated fish have been issued for
Comments made earlier this year by DNR Secretary Darrell
Bazzell do much to explain the importance of achieving
agreement on a remedy.
At that time, he said: "This is one of the largest and
most complex cleanups of PCB-contaminated sediment in
the world. Several states have shied away from pursuing
this type of cleanup project because of difficulties that
With 24 paper and pulp mills on the 39 miles of the Fox
River between Lake Winnebago and Green Bay, the area has
the highest concentration of such industrial operations
in the world.
The DNR and EPA will take public comments on the proposed
cleanup plan through Dec. 7 and will hold two public meetings
on the proposal before then. After receiving input from
the public, the agencies will develop a final plan.