The Obama Administration has filed a lawsuit against 10 companies and two municipalities to ensure the continued cleanup of Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund site. The lawsuit, filed jointly by the U.S. government and the state of Wisconsin on Oct. 14, also seeks payment of associated government costs and for damages to natural resources. Total cleanup costs and damages could exceed $1 billion.
Work has been ongoing at the site, which was contaminated with approximately 250,000 lbs of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that were released by manufacturers of “carbonless” copy paper from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. More than $300 million in cleanup work already has been completed at the site under a set of partial settlements and an Environmental Protection Agency administrative order.
But according to Wyn Hornbuckler, spokesman for the Dept. of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, the parties responsible for the ongoing cleanup work under that order have “protested.” Hornbuckler adds, “They have not agreed to take full responsibility for completing the cleanup or paying all damages for injuries to natural resources.” The DOJ estimates the remaining dredging and capping work at the site would cost an additional $550 million. Moreover, an analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services suggests that an additional $400 million in natural-resource restoration work may be needed.
The DOJ also announced that it has reached a proposed settlement—subject to a 30-day public comment period—with one of the newly named defendants, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP. In the proposed settlement, Georgia-Pacific would agree to cover some of the cleanup costs.