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U.S. EPA REGION 5
BROWN COUNTY
GREEN BAY

Congressional District # 6, 8

FOX RIVER NRDA/PCB RELEASES

EPA ID# WI0001954841
Last Updated: March, 2014

Site Description

The Lower Fox River and Green Bay Site includes a 39-mile stretch of the Lower Fox River as well as the bay of Green Bay.  The river portion of the site extends from the outlet of Lake Winnebago and continues downstream to the mouth of the river at Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The bay portion of the site includes all of Green Bay from the city of Green Bay to the point where Green Bay enters Lake Michigan.  The site has been divided into five discrete operable units (OUs) by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  An OU is a geographical area designated for the purpose of analyzing and implementing remedial actions and is defined on the basis of similar features and characteristics (e.g., physical and geographic properties).  The river and the bay operable units are:

• OU 1 – Little Lake Butte des Morts
• OU 2 – Appleton to Little Rapids
• OU 3 – Little Rapids to De Pere
• OU 4 – De Pere to Green Bay
• OU 5 – Green Bay

Site Responsibility

The site is being addressed through federal, state and potentially responsible parties' actions.

Threats and Contaminants

The site is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a hazardous substance and probable human carcinogen.  It has been estimated that the 14 million cubic yards of contaminated river sediments contain more than 51,000 pounds of PCBs, and at least several hundred million cubic yards of sediments in Green Bay are contaminated with as much as 154,000 pounds of PCBs.  Because fish and wildlife are contaminated with PCBs, people who eat contaminated fish or waterfowl may suffer adverse health effects.  Fish consumption advisories for the site were first issued in 1976 and 1977 by WDNR and the State of Michigan, respectively.  The advisories are still in effect.  Adverse impacts to wildlife have also been documented.

Cleanup Progress

In 1989/90, EPA and WDNR began sediment and water sampling in the Lower Fox River and Green Bay for use in the Green Bay Mass Balance Study (GBMBS).  The GBMBS was a pilot project to test the feasibility of using a mass balance approach for assessing the sources and fates of toxic pollutants, spreading throughout the food chain.  Key subsequent evaluations were the remedial investigation and feasibility study, conducted by WDNR, with funding by EPA. Based on these evaluations, a proposed plan for site cleanup was issued by EPA and WDNR on October 5, 2001.

In addition to site investigations, two dredging demonstration projects were conducted on the Fox River:

After consideration of public comments on the proposed plan, two Records of Decision (RODs) for the Lower Fox River and Green Bay Site were finalized by EPA and WDNR in December 2002 and July 2003. These decisions were as follows:

• OU 1 (at the upstream/southerly end of the Lower Fox River): dredging and disposal of approximately 800,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediments with concentrations above 1 part per million (ppm).
• OU 2: monitored natural recovery.
• OU 3 and 4 (the most downstream/northerly end of the Lower Fox River): dredging and disposal of approximately 6.5 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment with concentrations above 1 ppm.
• OU 5 (Green Bay): limited dredging and monitored natural recovery.
• Total costs were estimated to be $400 million.

Both RODs contained a contingent remedy for the capping of contaminated sediment subject to approval by EPA and WDNR, and only under certain circumstances. EPA and WDNR later issued ROD Amendments (discussed in more detail below) in 2007 and 2008.

In addition, EPA negotiated or issued remediation-related legal agreements or orders as summarized in the following table:

Legal vehicle Date of Entry or Signature Settlers or Respondents Scope
Administrative Order on Consent May 26, 2000 Ft. James Corporation and Fort James Operating Company SMU 56/57 remediation
Judicial Consent Decree December 10, 2001 Appleton Papers Inc. (API) and NCR Corp. Funding of $41,500,000 for past costs and Fox River Projects
Administrative Order on Consent July 1, 2003 WTM I Company (formerly Wisconsin Tissue) OU 1 Design
Judicial Consent Decree April 12, 2004 P.H. Glatfelter Co.and WTM I Company OU 1 remediation
Administrative Order on Consent March 5, 2004 Fort James Operating Company and
NCR Corporation
OU 2 - 5 Design
Judicial Consent Decree November 3, 2006 NCR Corporation and Sonoco-U.S. Mills, Inc. "Phase 1" remediation 
Unilateral Administrative Order November 13, 2007 Appleton Papers, Inc., CBC Coating Inc., Georgia Pacific Consumer Products, LP, Menasha Corp., P.H. Glatfelter Co., U.S. Paper Mills Corp., WTMI OU 2 - 5 remediation
Judicial Consent Decree December 16, 2009 George Whiting Paper Company, Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, Green Bay Packaging, Inc., Heart of the Valley Metropolitan Sewerage District, International Paper Company, Lafarge North America Inc., Leicht Transfer & Storage Company, Neenah Foundry Company, The Proctor Gamble Paper Products Company, Union Pacific Railroad Company, and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation De Minimus Settlement Payments of $2,029,545.45 
Judicial Consent Decree April 20, 2010 City of DePere De Minimus Settlement  Payment of $210,000 
Complaint October 13, 2010 NCR Corporation, Appleton Papers Inc., CBC Coating Inc., Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Menasha Corporation, NewPage Wisconsin Systems Inc., P. H. Glatfelter Company, U.S. Paper Mills Corp., WTM  I Company, City of Appleton, and Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commision U.S. Government seeks a court order requiring paper companies to complete river cleanup and  reimbursement of about $17 million in past and future government costs, and payment for injuries to natural resources
Consent Decree October 13, 2010 Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP (GP) GP agrees it is liable along with other Defendants for performance of cleanup work in downstream portion of the River and pays $7 million for government's past costs
Consent Decree* December 1, 2010 Brown County, the City of Green Bay, and the United States Payment of $5.2 million for alleged liability for Fox River PCB contamination ($350,000 each from Brown County and the City of Green Bay, and $4.5 million from the United States)

Table note:  * Several companies have objected to this agreement.

Remedial design work for OU 1 began in July 2003, and OU 1 river cleanup work began in 2004 and was completed in 2009.  For OU 2 - 5, remedial design work began in March 2004, and the dredging and capping work in OU 2 - 5 began in 2009 and is ongoing.  These projects are described in detail below.

Dredging and disposal of contaminated sediments in OU 1 (a.k.a. Little Lake Butte des Morts) began in September 2004.  Dredging in OU 1 was completed in June 2008 and capping work was completed in May 2009.  Dredging removed 371,600 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediments (and about 1,900 pounds of PCBs) from OU 1 and the sediments were disposed off-site.  Also, 221 acres in OU 1 were capped.  The first long-term monitoring event for OU 1, conducted 1 year after completion of cleanup work, showed substantial reductions of PCB concentrations in fish.  For example, walleye PCB concentrations were reduced 73% compared to what they would have been, based on a statistical anlaysis of historic trends. Final cleanup costs for OU 1 were just under $100 million.

During 2007, 131,862 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment were dredged from a hotspot just downstream of the DePere Dam, and disposed at an off-site landfill.  This project is referred to as Phase 1, having been the first phase of cleanup in the OU 2 - 5 portion of the river.  Contaminated sediments in this area had the highest PCB concentrations detected in the Fox River, with PCB concentrations as high as 3000 ppm.  Final remedial activities for this former hotspot area were completed in 2013.

On June 26, 2007, EPA issued a ROD Amendment that modified the original decision for OU 2 - 5 from dredging 7.1 million cubic yards and capping 500,000 cubic yards, to dredging 3.5 million cubic yards and placing an engineered cap or a sand cover (with both generally referred to as "caps) over 3.7 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment.  This modified approach is comparably protective to the original decision, but will be completed sooner and at less cost.  The current cost estimate for the revised remedy is $701 million (in 2009 dollars).

On June 12, 2008, EPA issued a final ROD Amendment that modified the original decision for OU 1 remediation from an all-dredging remedy to a combination of dredging, capping and covering.  Similar to the decision for the OU 2 - 5 remedy, this modified approach for OU 1 is comparably protective and resulted in the OU1 remedy being completed sooner and at less cost than that required for an all-dredging remedy. 

Full-scale cleanup work in OU 2 - 5 began in April 2009 and is expected be completed in 2017.  To-date, more than 2.7 million cubic yards of sediment have been dredged from OU 2-5 and disposed in off-site landfills, and 114 acres of sediments have been capped or covered.  Once the cleanup work in OU 2-5 is complete, all site cleanup activities will be done except for long-term monitoring.

EPA completed a five-year review for the site on July 17, 2009, to evaluate the protectiveness of the remedy.  The review concluded that the remedial actions implemented at the site will be protective after they are completed, but that it may take additional time after completion of the remedy for surface water and fish tissue concentrations to decrease to protective levels.  A second five-year review will be completed by July 2014 and will discuss site cleanup progress and long-term monitoring results.

EPA and WDNR issued an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) on February 26, 2010.  The ESD described and explained the following significant modifications to the 2002 ROD and the 2007 ROD Amendment:

• Cost increase for remedial actions in OU 2 - 5;
• Reduction of capping thicknesses for OU 2 – 5; and
• Reduction of monitoring in OU 2.

The three separate modifications explained in the ESD are not directly related to each other.  In conjunction with the ESD, EPA also issued a Criteria Analysis Memorandum to confirm that the remedies selected in the ROD Amendment were still the best remedies for the site.

Final Note:  In the above discussion, "caps" refers both to areas where there was placement of 3 to 6 inches of sand (sometimes referred to as "covers") and areas with 6 to 15 inches of sand overlain by 6 to 24 inches of larger stone (sometimes referred to as "engineered caps").  

Success Story

This project is EPA's  largest yet sediment cleanup project.  To date, this project has removed (i.e., dredged) more than 3.3 million cubic yards and capped 335 acres of contaminated sediments.  Site cleanup is expected to be completed by 2017, and will remove or contain a total of 8 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediments, with about half of sediments dredged, and half capped or covered.  Long-term monitoring of fish for OU1 indicated substantial reductions in PCB concentrations in fish.

 

Contacts

Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
james hahnenberg (hahnenberg.james@epa.gov)
(312) 353-4213

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
susan pastor
(312) 353-1325

Aliases

FOX RIVER NRDA
FOX RIVER/LOWER GREENBAY 39 STREM MILES
/PCB RELEASES

 

Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.

 


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