Dredging of Toxins Urged in Wisc.

July 29, 2003

Tons of sediment containing harmful toxins would be dredged from Wisconsin's Fox River and buried in a landfill under a $324 million government plan, according to a report by Associated Press writer Robert Imrie.

The plan presented yesterday marks the second and final phase of a $400 million project for ridding 39 miles of the Fox River of polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs. Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday's announcement ends decades of study and debate over how to clean the river.

"Once again we will be able to safely eat the fish our children catch in the waters," Doyle told Imrie.

In addition to the dredging, some PCBS would be capped with sand and gravel and the pollutant would be monitored in coming decades.

Seven paper mills released the PCBs into the river from the 1950s through the 1970s. The now-banned chemicals are linked to reproductive and developmental problems in people, fish and other wildlife.

Those companies are responsible for paying for the cleanup. Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Hassett said the next step is to complete negotiations for money from them.

Under the plan, more than 7 million cubic yards of polluted silt would be dredged, said Tom Skinner, regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. One cubic yard is roughly the size of a mini-refrigerator.

The project's first phase, announced in January, involves cleaning up and monitoring 26 miles of the river's upper stretches. The second phase involves cleaning up 13 miles of the river's most polluted stretch, near where the Fox empties into Green Bay.

It would take at least a decade before the work is finished and years after that before fish could be declared PCB-free, said Bruce Baker of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Rebecca Katers, of the Clean Water Action Council, criticized Monday's plan because it allows for the capping of some imbedded PCBs, rather than removing them.

Source: The Associated Press