Tag Archives: cleanup

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

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.

Feds: Enbridge Energy to pay $177M more after Midwest oil spills

Enbridge Energy’s bill continues to grow for the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced earlier in July a proposed settlement with Enbridge and related companies.

Enbridge must spend at least $110 million on a series of measures to prevent spills and improve operations in the Great Lakes region.

The company also must pay civil penalties — $62 million for Clean Water Act violations, including $61 million for discharging at least 20,082 barrels of oil in Marshall, Michigan, and $1 million for discharging at least 6,427 barrels of oil in Romeoville, Illinois.

The settlement includes an “extensive set of specific requirements to prevent spills and enhance leak detection capabilities” throughout Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline system — a network of 14 pipelines spanning nearly 2,000 miles across seven states, including Wisconsin. The system moves about 1.7 million barrels of oil each day.

Enbridge also must improve its spill preparedness and emergency response programs. as well as replace close to 300 miles of one of its pipelines.

“This settlement will make the delivery of our nation’s energy resources safer and more environmentally responsible,” assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a news release. “It requires Enbridge to take robust measures to improve the maintenance and monitoring of its Lakehead pipeline system, protecting lakes, rivers, land and communities across the upper Midwest, as well as pay a significant penalty.”

Already Enbridge has reimbursed the federal government for $57.8 million for cleanup costs from the Marshall spill and $650,000 for cleanup costs from the Romeoville spill.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr., assigned to the Western District in Michigan, said his office was pleased with the deal.

“Prevention of future pipeline leaks and immediate detection and repair of problem areas are critical when protecting health and the environment,” he said.

The Marshall spill was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. Enbridge discharged at least a million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek near Marshall.

After 22 months of cleanup work, the Kalamazoo River reopened for recreational activities but environmental groups continue to question whether the cleanup was complete.


Spending $110 million

Under the proposed settlement, Enbridge must:

  • Implement an enhanced pipeline inspection and spill prevention program.
  • Implement enhanced measures to improve leak detection and control room operations.
  • Commit to additional leak detection and spill prevention requirements for a portion of Enbridge’s Line 5 that crosses the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan.
  • Create and maintain an integrated database for the Lakehead Pipeline System.
  • Enhance its emergency spill response preparedness programs by conducting four emergency spill response exercises to test and practice Enbridge’s response to a major inland oil spill.
  • Improve training and coordination with state and local emergency responders.
  • Hire an independent third-party to assist with review of implementation of the requirements in the settlement agreement.


The case against Enbridge

The government’s complaint alleges Enbridge owned or operated a 30-inch pipeline, known as Line 6B, that ruptured near Marshall on July 25, 2010.

The Line 6B rupture triggered numerous alarms in Enbridge’s control room, but Enbridge failed to recognize the ruptured pipeline until at least 17 hours later.

In the meantime, Enbridge restarted Line 6B twice on July 26, 2010, pumping additional oil into the ruptured pipeline and causing additional discharges of oil into the environment.

Ultimately, Line 6B discharged at least 20,082 barrels of crude oil, much of which entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, which flows to Lake Michigan.

Flooding caused by heavy rains pushed the discharged oil over the river’s banks into its flood plains and accelerated its migration more than 35 miles downstream.

Enbridge later replaced Line 6B, which originates in Griffith, Indian, crosses the lower peninsula of Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Canada, with a larger pipeline, also known as Line 6B.

The rupture and discharges were caused by stress corrosion cracking on the pipeline, control room misinterpretations and other problems and pervasive organization failures at Enbridge.

The government complaint also alleges that on Sept. 9, 2010, another Enbridge pipeline, known as Line 6A, discharged at least 6,427 barrels of oil which Romeoville, Illinois, much of which flowed through a drainage ditch into a retention pond in Romeoville.

Land mines of the sea: Cleaning up lost fishing gear

They are the land mines of the sea, killing long after being forgotten.

Abandoned or lost fishing gear, including traps, crab pots and nets, litter the ocean floor in coastal areas around the world. Many continue to attract, entrap and kill fish and other marine life in what’s called “ghost fishing.”

Groups, governments and companies around the world are engaged in efforts to retrieve and recycle as much of the abandoned gear as they can get their hands on. The goal is to protect the environment, prevent marine life from being killed, remove threats to navigation, and in some cases, generate energy.

Pascal van Erp, a Dutch diver who was horrified by the amount of abandoned fishing equipment he encountered, founded the Ghost Fishing Foundation to tackle the issue.

“The problem with lost gear is enormous,” he said. “It is found in all seas, oceans and inland waters at all depths, along the beach and under the sand. I think the problem never can be resolved completely, but we can keep it from getting worse by showing the problem to the public and the authorities.”

For as long as mankind has been fishing, it has been losing some of that gear, but the problem has become particularly acute in recent decades with rapid advances in technology and the expansion of global fishing fleets.

Industry experts and scientists estimate that commercial fishermen lose about 10 percent of their traps per year to bad weather, currents that drag them to far-flung places or boats that sever tie lines intended to keep them in place.

Recommended solutions include degradable panels on traps that will quickly break down and allow trapped marine life to escape, and fast-degrading screws on whelk pots that serve the same purpose. Numerous international agreements also prohibit the deliberate dumping of fishing equipment at sea.

Some debris is deliberately thrown overboard; in England, small vessels can run up landfill charges of 500 British pounds ($702) per year, giving them an incentive to ditch broken gear.

“Crabs get trapped in the pots and starve to death,” said John Wnek, supervisor of New Jersey’s Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, whose students are involved in a project to collect abandoned fishing gear from New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay. “They’re still fishing long after they’re not supposed to be. This happens everywhere there’s commercial fishing.”

A 2009 United Nations report estimated there are 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets on the ocean floor worldwide. A 2005 survey found fishing boats in Greenland lose an average of 15 nets per day, stretching nearly 2,500 feet.

A 2001 study suggested that ghost fishing kills 4 million to 10 million blue crabs each year in Louisiana alone.

A 2002 study found 260,000 traps being lost each year in the Gulf of Arabia, leading the United Arab Emirates to mandate degradable panels in the traps, a step other jurisdictions have also adopted. The following year, a study in South Korea off the coast of Incheon found 97,000 tons of discarded fishing gear, and about 1,000 tons of lost gear are recovered each year from the Sea of Japan.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service estimates 12 miles of net are lost each day of the fishing season in the North Pacific, and in Queensland, Australia, about 6,000 crab pots are lost each year.

While the scope of the problem is vast, so is the range of projects to address it. One such effort, called “Fishing For Energy,” has collected over 3 million pounds of discarded fishing gear nationwide. It has already plucked more than 400 crab traps from Barnegat Bay and has its sights on 600 more. It also is active in Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Florida.

Traps that are still usable are returned to local fishermen; unusable ones are either recycled or burned in one of 40 trash-to-energy incinerators run by the energy company Covanta.

The work involves volunteers taking boats onto the bay and using sonar to detect crab pots on the bay’s floor. They mark the spot with buoys and slowly sail over them, trying to snag the debris with a grappling hook dragged from a heavy rope. It is funded in part by a $109,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cleanups are also underway in other countries. A September effort in Orkney, England, retrieved 60 crab pots and 25 whelk pots, along with rope and netting that a local artist used to create doormats.



Community Bulletins | March 26, 2015

Candidates announce for state Democratic Party chair

Martha Laning earlier this month announced her candidacy for chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Laning is a community leader, businesswoman and former candidate for Wisconsin’s 9th Senate District. She’s been endorsed by state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who’s often mentioned as a prospective gubernatorial candidate.

Also running for the position is Jason Rae, who has served on the boards of numerous progressive organizations and as chair of the Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission. Currently executive director of the Milwaukee LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Rae was chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Platform & Resolutions Committee for four years.

Other announced candidates are Jeff Smith and Joe Wineke.

More community bulletins …

• GREEN CAMPAIGN: Conservation Lobby Day is set for April 14, with citizen lobbyists gathering at Monona Terrace in Madison to register. For more, go to milwaukeeenvironmentalconsortium.org.

• BUILDING COMMUNITY: All Hands Boatworks, which held a meeting in Milwaukee earlier in March at Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, is making plans for a youth regatta, a youth boatbuilders camp and other projects. For more, visit All Hands Boatworks on Facebook.

• JUSTICE AND DISPARITY: The International Socialist Organization, with co-sponsorship by Young, Gifted and Black, the UW Comparative Studies Department and the UW LGBT Campus Center, hosted transgender activist CeCe McDonald at the UW-Madison campus on March 19. McDonald talked about prison reform, racial profiling, racial disparities and transgender rights. 

• FAIR NOTICE: The Fair Wisconsin board of directors announced the appointment of Megin McDonnell as interim executive director. She succeeds Katie Belanger and has been serving Fair as external relations director since 2011. For more, go to fairwisconsin.com.

• HIGH-TECH DRIVER’S ED: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has created an e-version of The Motorists’ Handbook that explains the rules of the road and offers safe driving recommendations for operating cars or light trucks. “The eBook option for tablets makes this version especially convenient to study and prepare for the knowledge test that all applicants must pass to get a driver license,” says Debbie Kraemer, supervisor of the Bureau of Driver Services. The handbook is available at wisconsindmv.gov.

• RUMMAGE WITH A CAUSE: The Milwaukee/NARI Foundation, Inc., the educational and charitable arm of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., will host its 10th annual “Home Improvement Rummage Sale” in the parking lot of Milwaukee Millwork, 11712 W. Dixon St., Milwaukee on May 1, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. The sale supports efforts to reduce materials from landfills while also assisting the foundation’s efforts to provide financial and educational support to students pursuing a career in the home improvement and remodeling industry. Leftover merchandise will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Send notices to Lisa Neff at .

White House proposes 5-year blueprint for Great Lakes protection

The Obama administration has proposed an updated five-year blueprint for Great Lakes environmental protection that would put greater emphasis on climate change and using science to choose cleanup projects.

Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion since 2009 for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which targets what experts consider the most pressing threats to the freshwater seas: toxic contamination, invasive species, loss of wildlife habitat and runoff that causes noxious algae blooms. The administration is proposing a second phase that would continue work in those areas while addressing concerns about how well the program is meeting its objectives.

“Protecting communities around the Great Lakes and restoring this important ecosystem is a national and binational imperative,” said Gina McCarthy, chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which coordinates the program with support from 10 other federal departments.

They have awarded more than 2,100 grants to universities, nonprofits, tribes and government agencies across the eight-state region for projects including removal of sediments laced with toxic chemicals, rebuilding wetlands and uprooting invasive plants. The program also has supported the fight to prevent aggressive Asian carp from reaching the lakes.

A federal task force developed the new installment in consultation with regional stakeholder groups, said Cameron Davis, a senior adviser to McCarthy. A final version is to be adopted by Oct. 1, allowing time for public comment.

In addition to redoubling efforts in the four problem areas, it calls for taking climate change into account in new projects. Wetland plants and trees would be selected for suitability to warmer temperatures. Watershed restorations would be designed to cope with more frequent and intense storms, which could cause heavier erosion and runoff. The task force would produce climate resilience criteria and update it yearly.

Another new feature seeks to strengthen the scientific basis for choosing restoration projects and determining how well they’re meeting the program’s goals. While the Great Lakes initiative is popular with many advocacy groups and government officials in the region, some complain that too little money has gone to research and many projects have lacked a clear scientific rationale.

“For the first time, we’ll articulate a methodical way by which we use the best available science to continue to make the best possible investments,” Davis said.

Allen Burton, director of a University of Michigan program that seeks long-term, systemwide solutions to Great Lakes problems, said the proposal is an improvement but doesn’t go far enough. In addition to using data from existing and completed projects to select new ones, the program should weave scientific measurements into projects from the beginning so their performance can be evaluated along the way, he said.

The plan’s approach is “after-the-fact and project-specific,” Burton said. “You’re not learning as much about what worked and didn’t work. You’re not adapting your process to make it better, because the project’s already done.”

The Great Lakes Advisory Board, a group representing a variety of interests in the region, is mostly pleased with the blueprint, said its chairman, David Ullrich. But he also said the plan relies too much on simply listing the number of projects dealing with particular issues to measure progress.

Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said the new plan “sets the stage to make a strong program even better, including mechanisms to clearly measure the success of these investments.”

EPA: BP oil spill affected half-mile of Lake Michigan

Crews for oil giant BP are working to clean up an undetermined amount of crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan and affected about a half-mile section of shoreline near Chicago following a malfunction at BP’s northwestern Indiana refinery, officials said.

The spill reported Monday afternoon by BP appears to have been contained by company crew members who deployed absorbent booms around the spill site, said Mike Beslow, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the area affected by the spill was a cove along the Lake Michigan at the company’s sprawling Whiting refinery, which covers about 1,400 acres.

The spill is about 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago but was not expected to pose any threat to municipal water supplies that draw on the lake’s water, Beslow said.

A Coast Guard flyover of the area Tuesday did not reveal any oil outside the containment booms, Beslow said during a Tuesday afternoon media briefing, “but there is oil on the beach that is being addressed.”

Beslow said BP crews were using vacuum trucks to suck up the corralled oil and were cleaning up oil along 2,700 feet of private shoreline the company owns at the Whiting site, he said.

The EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard were supervising that work, Beslow said.

Beslow said the Coast Guard was working with BP officials to determine how much oil had been discharged into the lake.

Dean, the BP spokesman, said northerly winds were helping contain the oil by pushing it toward the shoreline.

“It’s in the lake, yes, but it’s not moving around freely. It’s been kind of contained because of the weather and of the geography of the lakefront there,” Dean said.

BP said in a statement Tuesday evening that it believes that “an upset at a crude distillation unit may have sent crude oil into the refinery’s cooling water outfall and then into the lake.”

The company said it has taken steps to prevent another discharge and might have an estimate today on how much oil was spilled.

BP initially reported to the EPA that when its workers discovered the spill they observed an oily sheen that covered about 5,000 square yards, said Susan Hedman, the EPA’s regional administrator.

Dan Goldblatt, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said an agency official who was at the scene around 2 a.m. Tuesday had reported “a large sheen on the lake.”

Hedman said the EPA is not aware of any previous oil spills at the site, but the agency is just beginning its assessment of this week’s spill.

“EPA’s lawyers will be looking into this matter and determining whether or not enforcement action is appropriate,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, said in a statement that the incident “underscores the importance of vigilance in protecting our Great Lakes from oil spills.”

“We are fortunate that the spill appears to have been quickly contained, but I will continue to monitor developments to ensure that the cleanup is rapid and complete,” Levin said.