Feds: NCR agrees to complete superfund cleanup at Wisconsin’s Fox River

The Wisconsin Gazette

The Justice Department and EPA on Jan. 17 announced a major settlement that requires NCR Corporation to complete one of the nation’s largest Superfund cleanup projects at Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and Green Bay Site.

Cleanup and natural resource restoration work has been done in the area 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 final phase of cleanup taken on by NCR will cost up to $200 million or more over the next few years, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

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 polychlorinated biphenyls in bottom sediment of the Fox River and Green Bay.

“After years of hard fought litigation, this settlement requires NCR to take full responsibility for completing this important cleanup effort,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Lawsuits and settlements like this vindicate the principle that polluters should pay the cost of Superfund cleanups, rather than the taxpayers. And, we are pleased that our co-plaintiff, the state of Wisconsin, is also a key part of this settlement.”

Acting EPA Region 5 Administrator Robert A. Kaplan said, “Fox River is a treasure — and it’s been polluted for too long. People should be able to swim, boat, and eat fish from all parts of the river. This cleanup will ensure that PCB levels continue to reduce downstream as they have upstream.”

The cleanup remedy for the Fox River Site was jointly-selected by EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It will lead to the removal of much of the PCB-containing sediment from the Fox River by dredging, the federal government said.

In other portions of the River, contaminated sediment is being contained in place with caps. The dredging and capping will reduce PCB exposure and greatly diminish downstream migration of PCBs to Green Bay.

Sediment cleanup began in the uppermost segment of the river in 2004. Under the settlement announced Jan. 17, NCR committed to complete the final phase of remediation by the end of 2018.

In 2010, the federal and state governments sued NCR and other parties in a Superfund lawsuit to require NCR to continue cleanup at the site.

The defendants in the lawsuit included paper companies 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.

The settlement requires NCR to take on sole responsibility for completing sediment cleanup work.

The settlement with NCR resolves the government’s potential claims against Appvion, Inc., which purchased NCR’s paper manufacturing facilities in the Fox River Valley in the late 1970s. Appvion will not be involved in the cleanup work.

The proposed settlement is in the form of a consent decree that must be approved by the federal judge.