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Parties reach $54M settlement in Fox River cleanup

Four companies, a municipality and a sewerage commission have agreed to pay $54 million toward claims brought in a federal lawsuit regarding the pollution and cleanup of the lower Fox River in Green Bay.

The city of Appleton, CBC Coating Inc., Menasha Corp., the Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission, U.S. Paper Mills Corp. and WTM I Co. will pay the proposed settlement if it is approved by Eastern District Chief Judge William Griesbach.

The proposal also has the state of Wisconsin paying $100,000 and Kimberly Clark Co. paying $1.35 million.

The agreement was reached Wednesday morning after two years of mediation, according to court filings.

A news release from Quarles & Brady LLP, which represents WTM I, states the money is in addition to contributions the settling parties already made to clean up the Fox River.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Natural Resources filed in 2010, after the 12 defendants said they were dredging the river under protest and that they had not agreed to take full responsibility for completing the cleanup plan.

The lower Fox River is the site of the largest cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from a waterway in the United States. Papermakers in the 1950s and 1960s discharged large amounts of PCBs from carbonless copy paper production into the waters.

PCBs can cause health problems in fish and birds and can cause immune system problems, low birth weights and learning disabilities in humans, the original lawsuit contends.

The cost of the cleanup project is estimated at more than $1 billion.



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