Polluter Will Pay $20.5 Million for Superfund Cleanup of Wisconsin’s Fox River
The P.H. Glatfelter Company has agreed to reimburse the government for costs and assume long-term responsibility for a big cleanup in a final settlement that will end all Superfund litigation.
Yesterday, under a settlement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), P.H. Glatfelter Company agreed to pay $20.5 million to reimburse U.S. EPA for past cleanup costs associated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediment in Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and at a Green Bay site, as well as natural resource damages and reimburse all future government costs of overseeing one of the largest Superfund cleanups in the country. Glatfelter also is agreeing to take on responsibility for long-term monitoring and maintenance activities required by EPA.
Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP is joining this settlement and agreeing to minor adjustments to its commitments under prior settlements.
“EPA’s cleanup of the Fox River has significantly reduced PCB levels in upstream areas,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. “This settlement will ensure the long-term success of the cleanup and will allow reuse and redevelopment of the area for the benefit of local residents.”
An enormous amount of cleanup and natural resource restoration work has already been done in Fox River and Green Bay under a set of partial settlements, an EPA administrative cleanup order, and court orders in a federal lawsuit brought by the United States and the State of Wisconsin. The total cleanup costs for the Fox River site will exceed $1 billion. The cleanup work will reduce the risks to humans and wildlife posed by PCBs in bottom sediment of the Fox River and Green Bay.
The cleanup remedy for the Fox River site was jointly-selected by EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The remedy will remove much of the PCB-containing sediment from the Fox River by dredging. In other portions of the river, contaminated sediment is being contained in place with specially-engineered caps. The dredging and capping will reduce PCB exposure and greatly diminish downstream migration of PCBs to Green Bay.
In 2010, the United States and Wisconsin sued NCR Corporation, Glatfelter, Georgia-Pacific and other parties in a Superfund lawsuit to require them to continue the ongoing cleanup at the site and pay government costs and natural resource damages. The defendants in the government’s lawsuit included paper companies like Glatfelter and Georgia-Pacific that contaminated the sediment when they made and recycled a particular type of PCB-containing “carbonless” copy paper. NCR and its affiliates produced that paper with PCBs from the mid-1950s until 1971.
Under another settlement reached in 2017, NCR agreed to complete all remaining dredging and capping work at the site. This settlement requires Glatfelter and Georgia-Pacific to take responsibility for long-term tasks that will continue for many years after the dredging and cap installation is completed in 2019, including periodic monitoring of PCB levels in water and fish and maintenance of the sediment containment caps. The new settlement expands the companies’ obligations under earlier partial settlements and government orders, which already required at least $66 million in expenditures by Glatfelter and at least $154 million by Georgia-Pacific.
The proposed settlement is in the form of a consent decree that must be approved by the federal judge overseeing the legal proceedings over the Fox River site. If approved, this settlement would end all Superfund litigation over the site.
This settlement, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on Jan. 3, 2019, will be subject to a 30-day public comment period from Jan. 31 – March 4.
To view the consent decree or to submit a comment, visit DOJ’s website: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html and click on the case name “U.S., et al. v. NCR, et al.”
For more information on cleanup activities at the Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund site, visit EPA's website here: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/fox-river.
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