By Colleen Kave, J.D.
If approved, settlement will end all Superfund litigation over Wisconsin Fox River, Green Bay site.
P.H. Glatfelter Company, global manufacturer of specialty papers and engineered products, reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) according to which the company will pay $20.5 million for reimbursement of EPA past costs and natural resource damages caused by the release of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Moreover, Glatfelter will reimburse all future government costs of overseeing one of the nation’s largest Superfund cleanup projects at Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and Green Bay site and will undertake long-term monitoring and maintenance activities required by EPA. Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP joined the settlement and agreed to minor adjustments to its commitments under prior settlements (Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs News Release, January 28, 2019).
The settlement expands Glatfelter’s and Georgia-Pacific’s obligations under earlier partial settlements and government orders in a 2010 lawsuit brought by the United States and the state of Wisconsin against paper companies that contaminated the sediment of the Fox River and Green Bay when they made and recycled a particular type of PCB-containing "carbonless" copy paper. The lawsuit sought to require the companies to continue the ongoing cleanup at the contamination site and to pay government costs and natural resource damages. In 2017, NCR Corporation agreed to complete all remaining efforts to dredge the PCB-containing sediment from the Fox River and contain sediment in other locations with specially-engineered caps. Pursuant to this new settlement, Glatfelter and Georgia-Pacific will take responsibility for long-term tasks that will continue for many years after the dredging and cap installation is completed in 2019, including periodic monitoring of PCB levels in water and fish and maintenance of the sediment containment caps. The total cleanup costs for the Fox River site will exceed $1 billion.
Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on January 3, 2019, the proposed settlement is in the form of a consent decree that must be approved by the federal judge overseeing the legal proceedings over the Fox River Site. If approved, this settlement would end all Superfund litigation over the Site. The agreement will also be subject to a 30-day public comment period after notice of the settlement is published in the Federal Register.
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