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Congressional District # 06


EPA ID# WID980996367
Last Updated: April, 2015

Site Description

The Sheboygan Harbor & River site extends approximately 14 miles through the communities of Sheboygan Falls, Kohler, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The site area includes Sheboygan Harbor, located on Lake Michigan, and the lower Sheboygan River, which discharges into the Sheboygan Harbor. In 1977, the State of Wisconsin detected polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during routine sampling of fish. PCBs were later detected in fish, wildlife, surface water, sediments in the harbor and river, and in floodplain soils. The highest concentrations of PCBs were detected in sediments immediately downstream from a die-casting plant in Sheboygan Falls, with concentrations declining farther downstream from the plant. The potentially responsible party (PRP) excavated PCB-contaminated soils from its property along the river and disposed of them offsite in 1978. The Sheboygan River drains into Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for approximately 58,000 people within the Sheboygan/Sheboygan Falls/Kohler metropolitan area.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the site for the National Priorities List (NPL) in September 1985 and finalized the site on the NPL in June 1986.

Site Responsibility

The Site is being addressed by the PRP with EPA oversight.

Threats and Contaminants

Sediments are contaminated with PCBs and a wide variety of heavy metals. Soils and surface water are contaminated with PCBs and heavy metals, including arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, and zinc. People who come into direct contact with or ingest contaminated soil, sediments, or surface water may be at risk. Because fish and wildlife are contaminated with PCBs, people who eat contaminated fish or waterfowl may also suffer adverse health effects. In 1978, the State advised residents not to eat fish from the Sheboygan River and two tributaries, the Mullet and Onion Rivers, because of PCB contamination. In 1987, the State also issued an advisory not to eat wildlife from the area. The advisories are still in effect.

Cleanup Progress

In 1986, EPA and the State signed a Consent Order with the PRP, requiring the PRP to conduct an investigation at the site to determine the nature and extent of contamination. From 1989 to 1990, the PRP dredged approximately 5,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the upper Sheboygan River. The PRP stored the sediments in two containers onsite: a confined treatment facility (CTF) and a sediment management facility (SMF). The CTF was used for biodegradation studies to evaluate the feasibility of biodegradation of PCBs in place. The SMF was designed for temporary storage of the remaining dredged sediments until they could be disposed of properly. During the period between 1989 and 1990, eight other sediment deposits were "armored" in the upper Sheboygan River. These areas were covered with several layers of geotextile fabric, run of bank material, and cobble and wire cages filled with rock (gabions), in order to prevent the PCB-contaminated sediment from moving downstream.

EPA signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the site on May 12, 2000, calling for the removal of approximately 21,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Upper River, 50,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Inner Harbor, removal of PCB-contaminated soil from the floodplains adjacent to the river, long-term monitoring of sediment and fish for the entire river, and additional groundwater/preferential pathway/source investigations at the Tecumseh plant facility. The ROD estimated that the remedy would cost $41 million.

In fall 2001, Tecumseh Products Company under a separate agreement disposed of approximately 3,800 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment that had been stored in the CTF and SMF. Offsite removal and disposal of these stored sediments comprised one of the components of the May 2000 ROD.

In 2004, a consent decree with Tecumseh Products Company for development of the remedial design and implementation of the remedial action for the Upper River sediment, floodplain soil, and facility investigations was completed, and the PRPs finalized the remedial design for Phase 1 of the Upper River. This portion of the remedy included removal and offsite disposal of PCB-contaminated soils present at the Tecumseh facility. It also included construction of a groundwater trench at the Tecumseh facility to deal with contaminated groundwater. The remedial action for Phase 1 Upper River began in 2004.

The Phase II Upper River work was implemented by Pollution Risk Services, which bought the former Tecumseh facility. This work included the near-shore areas, armored areas (river edges reinforced to prevent erosion) and soft sediments. Phase II work was initiated in June 2006. Near-shore sediments and armored areas were excavated and properly disposed of by October 2006. Soft sediment dredging in the Upper River was completed in October 2007.

In February 2009, the PRP and EPA entered into an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) for remedial design work for the Middle River, Lower River and Inner Harbor. The PRP initiated sample collection and recharacterization of soft sediment deposits in these areas in the summer of 2009. The remedial design submitted by the PRP for the Middle River, Lower River, and Inner Harbor was approved by EPA in December 2010. 

On December 15, 2010, EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) for the site to document adjustments to the estimated volume of contaminated sediment to be removed from the river, the areas from which those sediments were to be removed, and the cost of the modified remedy, as a result of the pre-design characterization effort and remedial design for the Lower River and Inner Harbor portion of the remedy. In addition, the ESD documented the need for institutional controls at the site.

Implementation of the remedial action for the lower reaches of the river started in early Spring 2011 and was completed by December 2012. The contaminated floodplain areas in the Upper River also were remediated during the fall of 2012.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
pablo valentin (valentin.pablo@epa.gov)
(312) 353-2886

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

Site Profile Information

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


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