Panel Wants PCBs Cooked, Not Buried

DNR landfill plan raises safety fears in Outagamie

By Ed Lowe
Post-Crescent staff writer

APPLETON — An Outagamie County Board panel said Monday the state should dump plans to bury PCB-laden spoils dredged from Little Lake Butte des Morts in a Vinland landfill.

The board’s Legislative, Audit and Human Resources Committee said the state Department of Natural Resources should spend between $14 million and $34 million more than planned to neutralize the material with heat.

Supv. Pat Stevens proposed the committee’s action, which goes to a board vote Jan. 12.

“I don’t see why we should spend our own tax dollars to remove a very dangerous substance from the Fox River and bury it in a landfill where it could leak out,” Stevens said. “Why would we want to create a situation where future generations will have to deal with this problem all over again?”

Despite DNR assurances that landfilling is a safe and permanent method of PCB disposal, area officials remain unconvinced, contending the toxic material could leak from specially designed landfills and contaminate soil and groundwater supplies 100 years from now.

The resolution echoes one approved by the Winnebago County Board on Oct. 30. Both petition the DNR to reconsider its decision to spend $66 million to dispose of material dredged from Little Lake Butte des Morts in a Vinland landfill owned by Georgia Pacific. Vinland officials petitioned the DNR seeking the same reconsideration Oct. 9.

The Winnebago resolution urges the DNR to spend between $80 million and $100 million vitrifying the material in gas furnaces operated by Minergy, a Neenah-based corporation owned by Wisconsin Energy. The heating process would transform the river sediment into a non-toxic material that can be used in road construction.

“If we’re going to get rid of this stuff, let’s get rid of it permanently,” Supv. Al Schmidt said. “Let’s not stockpile it in a landfill only to create another problem down the road.”

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were once used in the manufacture of electrical equipment and in the production of carbonless paper. They can cause serious health problems.

Schmidt said he saw no need for the committee to await a public presentation by Minergy officials Jan. 27.

“It will be more costly today to do it this way, but from everything I’ve read the 25 percent difference in (disposal cost) is worth it.”

Ed Lowe can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 293, or by e-mail at elowe@