Tuesday, November 13, 2007

US Environmental Protection Agency forces paper companies to begin $400 million clean-up project to deal with PCBs in the Fox River

EPA orders start to Fox River cleanup in Wisconsin

Federal and state officials have run out of patience with paper companies' inability to reach a financial settlement for cleanup of PCBs from the Fox River.

Now they are using their enforcement powers to get them to work on the project.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, with agreement from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is expected to issue orders today to require six paper companies, including Georgia-Pacific, to site a landfill, prepare the area and order equipment next year.

The companies, along with the Menasha Corp. and P.H. Glatfelter Co., will be ordered to start dredging the river north of the De Pere dam in 2009.

The $400 million project includes the dredging or capping of 3.7 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the dam to Green Bay.

The contamination occurred when the paper mills discharged waste from recycled carbonless paper. It is the largest PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) river dredging project ever undertaken by the EPA.

"The project is no longer a cooperative operation," said Bruce Baker, deputy administrator of the DNR's Division of Water. "I've been working for 30 years on Fox River projects and this is the first time we've had to take this kind of enforcement action. But the driving force is keeping this on schedule. We couldn't wait any longer."

Mary Jo Malach, spokeswoman for Georgia-Pacific, said the company has not received a cleanup order from the EPA and could not comment on it.

Company representatives met with a mediator throughout the summer in an effort to determine financial responsibility but couldn't reach agreement.

Here is the full story.