Fox River dredging project has finished, EPA announces

February 2, 2021 – Fox 11 News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) — After 17 seasons of work, and about $1 billion spent, the Fox River Cleanup Project is finally complete.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, made the announcement in Green Bay Wednesday morning.

“We are here today to celebrate the completion of the Fox River Cleanup Project. One of the largest Superfund river sediment cleanup projects ever completed in the United States,” said Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator.

Wheeler says more than 6.5 million cubic yards of sediment have been removed from a 39-mile stretch of the Lower Fox River since 2004.

“This is considered by many to be the largest PCB cleanup in the world,” he said.

The PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls are chemicals used decades ago, by the papermaking industry. Experts say removing those contaminants reduces the health risk to people and the environment. Phil Enscoe and his wife Marianne Escoe say they notice a change along the waterway.

“I think the cleanup’s been a good thing. And I think it improves the quality of the river and therefore the quality of our community,” said Phil Escoe, Allouez.

According to the EPA, PCB concentrations in water upstream of the De Pere dam have been reduced by 90% since 2006. Over the same time frame, PCB concentrations in walleye have declined by 65%.

“Those levels will continue to fall throughout the Fox River for the next 10-30 years, because of the sediment cleanup,” said Wheeler.

Up and down the Fox River in Green Bay, the familiar red barges were gone. The underwater pipelines were removed, for the first time in years, the surface of waterway seemed to be a little calmer.

Several paper companies are paying for the cleanup. Wheeler said it took 15 court cases to sort out which companies would pay how much.

The final dredging was done on June 2. Wheeler said finishing touches on the project are expected to wrap up by the end of August.

Wheeler has been spending time in Northeast Wisconsin this week. On Tuesday, he appeared in Marinette to announce that the Lower Menominee River was being removed from the list of polluted areas around the Great Lakes.

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