From Riverbed to Roadbed


By Jerry Burke

A solution may have been found to keep contaminated PCB sediment from the Fox River from going to landfills. Neenah-based Minergy has come up with a system that turns the sediment into asphalt for roads. At the same time, the process destroys the PCBs.

The first commercial laying of Minergy’s special asphalt Thursday morning could be a new foundation for the Fox River cleanup effort. The asphalt was made with what used to be paper mill sludge. Minergy, which designed the process, says the same thing can be done with the contaminated Fox River sediment.

Temperatures of 3,000 degrees turn the sediment into aggregate glass. It’s hot enough to destroy the harmful chemicals.

Minergy says it’s nothing more than taking recycling to a new level. “If the dredging is going to occur, then it makes more sense to destroy the PCBs and recycle them into asphalt, recycle the product, rather than landfilling it forever,” Minergy’s Terry Carroll said.

The chairmen of towns that have landfills say that’s an idea they prefer.

“If this is an alternative that will work, and they have a market, I think it’s an excellent opportunity to pursue that,” Chuck Farrey of the town of Vinland said.

Minergy says the material exceeds the specifications usually required for asphalt highways. In one year, the state will check the asphalt Minergy laid on Thursday. If it holds up as expected, Minergy expects to get the go-ahead for using sediment from the Fox on roadways.

“I’m encouraged by it,” state Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said, “because what it’s going to do is, you recycle, you have a product that’s a quality product, which is also very good.”

The Department of Natural Resources, which is involved in the Fox River cleanup, says it is “intrigued” at the prospect that PCB sediment may not end up in a landfill.