Fox fish advisory understates risk
Green Bay Gazette
December 15, 2001
A proposed cleanup plan for the PCB-contaminated Fox River
understates health risks of eating fish from the river,
a toxicologists study concludes.
risk is about equal to smoking 2-3 packs of cigarettes
per day, said Jeffrey Foran, an environmental toxicologist
and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukees
School of Allied Health.
But real-world risks are even higher, Foran said, because
many fishermen dont follow guidelines for cleaning
and preparing fish to cut PCB risks.
The state Department of Natural Resources and federal
Environmental Protection Agency released a cleanup plan
Oct. 2 that asks seven area paper companies to spend $308
million to dredge and dispose of 7.25 million cubic yards
of PCB-contaminated sediment.
The plan targets sediment with PCB concentrations of 1
part per million or greater in 19 of the 39 river miles
between Little Lake Butte des Morts in Winnebago County
and the bay of Green Bay.
The companies released PCBs polychlorinated biphenyls
into the river during the 1950s, 60s and
70s in the manufacture and recycling of carbonless
copy paper. PCBs are very long-lived chemicals which have
been implicated in a wide range of health problems in
humans and wildlife.
Parts of the cleanup plan have drawn lukewarm praise from
environmentalists, but criticism has mounted over the
agencies decision not to dredge hotspots in the
bay of Green Bay. A public comment period on the proposed
plan closes Jan. 21. The EPA has said a final decision
wont come before next summer.
The 1 ppm dredging standard has also drawn fire. Foran
said the agencies own data show the 1 ppm standard
isnt tough enough.
cleanup level that (the) EPA and DNR propose will not
even come close to protecting human health and wildlife,
The Green Bay-based Clean Water Action Council of Northeast
Wisconsin is one of the sponsors of Forans study.
Executive Director Rebecca Katers said an earlier version
of the cleanup plan released by the DNR in 1999 backed
a much tougher 0.25 ppm dredging standard.
been going steadily backwards for the last two years,
Forans study was funded by part of a $50,000 grant
to the Clean Water Action Council from the EPA, which
provides money for activities that help communities participate
in decision-making at Superfund sites. Foran is also president
of Citizens for a Better Environment an advocacy
group that focuses on Great Lakes issues from offices
in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Regulators have estimated that most of the PCBs released
into the river have already moved to the bay and Lake
Michigan. More than 150,000 pounds are thought to remain
in bay sediments, including 69,000 pounds near the mouth
of the river.