Board Weighs Disposal of PCBs

Posted Oct. 20, 2003

Supervisors to discuss resolution supporting vitrification

By Jeff Bollier
of The Northwestern

The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors is set to weigh in Tuesday on how to dispose of contaminated sediments dredged from Little Lake Butte Des Morts.

Supervisors will discuss and possibly act on a resolution supporting the burning sediment containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at high temperatures during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the County Board Room of the Courthouse.

The resolution supports an alternative to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ plan to deposit the sediment in a town of Vinland landfill owned by Georgia Pacific.

Bruce Baker, deputy administrator of the DNR’s division of water quality, said the agency does not oppose using vitrification, or burning sediments at temperatures that convert it to glass, to clean up parts of the Fox River.

But the process is not cost-effective to clean up Little Lake Butte Des Morts, Baker said.

“The landfill is a very safe disposal method for PCB sediments,” Baker said. “The paper-making industries have already agreed to contribute to cleanup costs and to ask those industries to come up with millions of dollars more (for vitrification) is unreasonable. There’s no reason to make changes to the agreement.”

Winneconne Supervisor Pat O’Brien and Vinland Supervisor Chuck Farrey co-sponsored the resolution.

“It seems the DNR has their mind made up on the cleanup of Little Lake Butte Des Morts,” O’Brien said. “We’re trying to change their mind on that issue. I encourage the DNR to at least pull back and look at it.”

PCBs were released into the river from the mid-1950s until 1971 as a byproduct of the manufacture and recycling of carbonless copy paper.

The long-lasting chemicals have been linked to birth defects in wildlife and are considered a threat to human health.

County Board Chair Joseph Maehl said area residents should set aside their emotions and get educated before making a decision.

“I would just hope all the folks involved would listen very carefully to the authorities that have spent their lives investigating things like this,” Maehl said. “It’s awfully hard to separate education from emotion. If we can find out what the facts are, what the positives and negatives are, we can go from there.”

Jeff Bollier: (920) 426-6688 or