MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) – The Wisconsin Department of Justice announced on Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit to ensure continued environmental cleanup work at Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and Green Bay Site.
The lawsuit, brought jointly by the United States and the State of Wisconsin, targets risks to humans and wildlife posed by polychlorinated biphenyls in bottom sediment, banks and shoreline areas of these waterways.
The United States and the state of Wisconsin also filed a proposed settlement with one of the named defendants, Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP.
The company would be required to do cleanup work downstream from a line across the Fox River slightly upstream of its paper mill in the city of Green Bay.
The company would also agree to pay $7 million to reimburse a portion of the government’s unpaid past and future costs. This proposed settlement is subject to a 30 day public comment period.
Cost of cleanup for the site are expected to exceed $1 billion. The lawsuit also seeks payment of associated government costs and natural resource damages.
The other 11 non-settling defendants will continue in the lawsuit.
Although a large amount of cleanup and natural resource restoration work has started thanks to a set of partial settlements and an EPA administrative order, the parties that allegedly caused the PCB contamination are performing most of the ongoing cleanup work under protest.
Those same parties also have not agreed to take full responsibility for completing the cleanup or paying any damages for injuries to natural resources.
The government is seeking a court order that would require all responsible parties to continue funding and performing the PCB cleanup in a timely manner. It also seeks monetary damages for decades of PCB-related injuries to fish and birds and for lost recreational opportunities. All damages recovered will be used to restore natural resources in the Green Bay area as directed by law.
Last year, the United States and the state of Wisconsin reached pre-litigation settlements with several other local sewer system operators and a number of companies that made relatively minor contributions to the PCB contamination at the site.
The cleanup remedy at the site was jointly-selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and was designed to remove much of the PCB-containing sediment from the Fox River through dredging and specially-engineered caps.
More than $300 million in cleanup work has already been done at the site, but it’s expected that another $550 million will be needed to complete the dredging and capping work.