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EPA in Wisconsin

Milwaukee River Floodplain Sampling

Update - March 2017

Public Meeting April 18

Milwaukee Riverfront property owners, community members and stakeholder groups are encouraged to attend a public meeting to discuss results from recent sediment and soil testing in the floodplain of the river.

Tuesday, April 18
5 to 7 p.m.
Gordon Park Pavilion
2828 N. Humboldt Blvd., Milwaukee

  • a short presentation on the sampling results
  • an overview of recent Milwaukee River cleanup efforts
  • officials from these agencies will be on hand to answer questions:
    • EPA
    • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
    • Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)
    • City of Milwaukee
    • Milwaukee County


Following sampling conducted in late 2016, EPA has received initial results indicating the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in some Milwaukee River floodplain areas between Estabrook Dam and the former North Avenue Dam. The sampling area covers approximately 4 river miles. The floodplain is largely open to the public and contains walking trails as part of the Milwaukee River Greenway.

PCBs are synthetic oils that were widely used as industrial coolants and lubricants until being banned in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Although the PCB levels in the floodplain soils/sediments are higher than they should be, they are low enough that no illness to the public is expected. The Wisconsin DHS recommends avoiding exposure to PCBs when possible because PCBs can build up in the human body over time. Common sense steps include not touching soil that could contain PCBs; removing shoes upon entering the home; washing hands with soap and water and cleaning pets, bikes and tools after visiting the Milwaukee River floodplain. Consuming fish that contain PCBs is often the primary route of exposure. Anglers are encouraged to continue following posted fish consumption advisoriesExit.