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Great Lakes Article:

Fox River cleanup still in early stages
Officials: Completion of PCB removal plans more than a year away
Appleton Post Crescent
Published December 4th, 2004

GREEN BAY — Paper companies, contractors and state officials are closer to finalizing details of the PCB cleanup in the Fox River and bay of Green Bay, officials say.

But the final project could take about 10 more years to complete.

The state Department of Natural Resources discussed the project’s timeline Friday in a small meeting originally for just local government officials but open to the public.

Roughly 60,000 to 80,000 pounds of the potentially cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls are thought to remain in the Fox River. Discharges from the river also have moved PCBs into Green Bay and Lake Michigan, where they are absorbed and consumed by fish.

Once the cleanup is complete, it could take decades for PCBs to drop below safe levels in fish.

Exactly when the fish in local waters are safe to eat again depends on actions taken within the next six to 18 months, said Greg Hill, DNR chief of water quality modeling.

The department will be working with paper companies to evaluate 1,154 core locations removed from the lower Fox this summer to map out the extent of PCB contamination and devise the final removal plan, which should be completed by early 2006.

The cleanup is divided into several parts. Dredging on the upper part near Menasha and Little Lake Butte des Morts began this summer. That area is thought to contain about 10 percent of the PCB contaminants.

Some state and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials on the project said work on the lower river should wait until dredging is finished upstream, but that could delay the project by several years.

Hill said he didn’t think the DNR wanted to wait that long to start on the lower river, where the lion’s share of PCBs remain.

Disposal of the PCB waste is still one of the biggest issues. De Pere City Administrator Larry Delo said Friday the city remains concerned about plans to run a pipeline through town to a landfill in the Town of Holland.

“We just want to be in the loop so we have an opportunity to comment during the process of the final design,” Delo said.

The data from the 1,154 cores samples of the river are being studied to determined exactly where and how deep PCB contaminants are deposited. Hill said so far core samples have provided no surprises, in line with previous broader studies.

Other news about the project discussed on Friday included:

n The first summer of dredging in Little Lake Butte des Morts removed 25,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated waste. The waste is waiting to be trucked to a landfill near Chilton. Very few PCBs were redistributed in the water during dredging.

n The state is using a “working group” approach to writing the final cleanup implementation plan, in which paper company representatives and DNR officials meet and talk regularly about eight different aspects of the program. The working groups help establish consensus in choosing cleanup methods and design, whereas the typical Superfund-style cleanup design is normally more adversarial, company and DNR officials said.


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