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Great Lakes Article:

Fox River dredging plan could take up to 60 years, panel says

Article courtesy of the ASSOCIATED PRESS

December 10, 2001

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. -- A dredging plan backed by state and federal regulators to clean the PCB-contaminated Fox River could take 60 years to complete, a panel hired to study corrective options said.

The timeline is longer than the five to seven years the state Department of Natural Resources and federal Environmental Protection Agency estimate and is a main reason for the panel's recommendation that contaminated sediment be capped, not removed.

"We feel it's important to reduce the risk and address the problem quickly,'' said Cecil Lue-Hing, chairman of the panel that was hired by Appleton Papers Inc.

The state DNR and EPA released a cleanup plan Oct. 2 that asks Appleton Papers and six other paper companies to spend $308 million to dredge and dispose of 7.25 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment.

The companies released the chemicals into the river during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in the manufacture and recycling of carbonless copy paper.

Lue-Hing presented the seven-man panel's findings on Tuesday at a meeting of the Science and Technical Advisory Committee, which is an independent body of scientists, engineers and environmentalists that meets to consider remedial options for the river. The panel worked eight months on the study, Lue-Hing said.

In the capping plan, contaminated sediment would be buried under layers of sand, gravel and stone.

The composition of the cap would vary across the affected 39-mile stretch of river from Little Lake Butte des Morts to the bay of Green Bay.

Capping river sediments could be completed in six to 10 years, Lue-Hing said.

He said the DNR and EPA agencies have underestimated the time it will take to dredge the river because work cannot proceed faster than the agencies' own wastewater regulations allow.

The agencies' plan calls for water drained from contaminated sediment to be discharged back into the river.

The discharge will fall under the same regulations businesses now face when seeking permits to allow discharge into waterways, Lue-Hing said, meaning that dredging could take decades, not years.

Also, the capping plan would likely cost about the same as the agencies' $308 million estimate for their own dredging plan, Lue-Hing said.

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