AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
What should be done about PCBs in Wisconsin's Fox River? Dredging? Capping? Natural Remediation? The stakes in this debate are enormous, with cleanup costs projected in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Environmentalists and pulp and paper producers aim to clean up Wisconsin's lower Fox River by reducing toxins, specifically polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in the stream. But deciding the best mix of intervention technology and natural restoration is an ongoing, intense debate.
Both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) headquartered in Madison, Wis., and the Fox River Group--the Appleton, Wis.-based consortium of seven paper companies along the lower Fox River--have similar objectives for the river. However, a lengthy discussion has arisen as to whether the mass of PCBs found in the river sediment needs to be reduced in order to decrease their exposure to the ecosystem.
There is a lot at stake. The costs associated with intervening in natural processes are projected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and WDNR are figuring costs ranging from $150 million to $728 million, depending on the actions that are implemented.
As seen in the headlines of local newspapers, the public debates have been heated. Local citizens vehemently oppose the deposit of PCB waste into their landfills. Regional elected officials pursue tax dollars, such as the Federal 2000 budget's Energy and Water Appropriation funding, to cover the costs of commissioned studies. U.S. senators and congressmen representing Wisconsin have offered their assistance in providing for the river's restoration.
At one point, the WDNR went as far as not attending public forums conducted on the topic by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In defense of their absence, the water division deputy director of the WDNR, Bruce Baker, called the U.S. Congress-appointed forum a "bold attempt by industry to avoid cleaning up contaminated sediment." So far the debate has been a public relations nightmare. It is an expensive debate and one that is consuming incalculable human, science, legal and political resources.
THE PAPER VALLEY
A plentiful supply of fresh water was one of the reasons the paper industry established such a strong presence in the Fox River region. The lower Fox River is called the "Paper Valley" by residents who are proud of Wisconsin's ranking, for 45 years now, as the number one paper-producing state in the U.S. More than 5.8 million tons of paper and paperboard are produced in the state annually.
According to the Wisconsin Paper Council, the pulp, paper and allied industries employ 53,000 men and women, representing one of every 11 manufacturing jobs in the state. The Fox River Group reports that among the communities that line the Fox River, 26,000 individuals are employed by the paper industry and their earnings are 30 percent higher than the average for general manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin.
Protecting public health, restoring the environment, maintaining the dependable economy enjoyed by the residents and enabling public enjoyment of the river is a challenge elected officials, the paper industry, WDNR and local communities have undertaken with conviction.
A POWERFUL WATERWAY
The Fox River has tremendously …