Valley Site Targeted for PCB Landfill

Posted May 15, 2003

Input sought from Town of Vinland residents

By Ed Culhane
Post-Crescent staff writer

PCB-contaminated sediments from Little Lake Butte des Morts could be entombed in a paper company landfill in the Town of Vinland, officials said Wednesday.

Citing an agreement between Georgia-Pacific Corp. and regulators, Georgia-Pacific would accept all the contaminated material targeted for removal from the lake — between 300,000 and 500,000 cubic yards of dewatered sediment.

Before the plan can proceed, however, the company must renegotiate its local landfill agreement with Vinland, which borders the southwest side of Neenah. The landfill originally was developed to accept paper mill sludge.

Even though DNR officials say there is no danger to people or the environment, town officials can expect strong opposition from neighbors.

“I am definitely against it,” said Shirley Brazee, the town’s clerk. Her family owns the largest parcel adjacent to the landfill, a 450-acre grain farm.

“I certainly do not want to see PCBs dumped right across from us,” Brazee said. “I have five children. One of the things we have been happy about is that they all settled within a five-mile radius. To me, they are all going to be affected by this.”

Company and officials from the state Department of Natural Resources met with town officials and about three dozen neighbors of the landfill site late Wednesday morning.

“I haven’t talked to anyone who isn’t totally upset,” Brazee said.

This is the first time the DNR has publicly identified a landfill in its cleanup plans, although it was Georgia-Pacific that made the site public Wednesday.

Georgia-Pacific, which is located down river in Green Bay, actually is not responsible for the PCB contamination in Little Lake Butte des Morts, the furthest upstream section of the lower Fox River, located between river’s outfall at Menasha and the first dam in Appleton.

The DNR and EPA are negotiating with two other paper mills considered responsible for polluting the lake: P.H. Glatfelter and the former owners of Wisconsin Tissue Mills.

Al Toma, regional manager of governmental affairs for Georgia-Pacific, said his company made the offer to maintain progress on the cleanup. The company will receive credit against its share of cleanup costs for the $400,000 in engineering work that would precede development of the Vinland landfill to accept PCBs.

The company also would be compensated for the cost of operating the landfill.

This is not the first time the Green Bay mills’ owners have stepped forward to assist the government in the cleanup. In the late 1990s, when the Fox River Group of paper companies refused to complete a demonstration project that had been cut short by the advent of winter, then-owner Fort James Corp. agreed to finish the job alone, depositing the dredgings in specially developed landfill cells west of Green Bay.

Fort James was purchased by Georgia-Pacific in 2000.

“Georgia-Pacific and its predecessors have taken the position that we want to work toward a solution with respect to the river cleanup,” Toma said. “This is another opportunity to assist in the process and to keep the process moving.”

The landfill in Vinland, located west of U.S. 45 and south of County G in Winnebago County, is on a 355-acre parcel of land. Less than half — 134 acres — is licensed for waste disposal. It was licensed in 1996 by Wisconsin Tissue Mills for the disposal of paper mill sludge. Georgia-Pacific also purchased Wisconsin Tissue and its assets, then sold Wisconsin Tissue but kept the landfill.

At the time the landfill was licensed, adjacent neighbors were compensated for a perceived drop in property values. Brazee said 33 landowners received one-time checks in amounts varying from $650 to $82,000, depending on proximity and the number of acres owned.

Company officials said they do not anticipate any further change in property values or the need for additional compensation. The company already was going to renegotiate with the town because it intends to bury ash in addition to paper mill sludge in the landfill.

Those negotiations now will include the issue of PCB disposal. Town officials said no meetings have been scheduled. “We will definitely need to get public input,” said Town Supv. Chuck Stannard. “And we will definitely need to go to the attorney.”

The special cell Georgia-Pacific would build for river sediments would involve less than 5 percent of available landfill space. It would dispose of up to 500,000 cubic yards but has room for 10 million.

Greg Hill of the DNR said the agreement with Georgia-Pacific is an important step forward in the cleanup.

“The issue that has always been raised is that you can’t dredge because you can’t get a reasonable price for disposal,” he said. “If this gets approved, it will be a local landfill with a reasonable price. We have taken the question of whether or not you can dispose of sediment out of the equation.

“We’ll have a place to put it.”



What are PCBs and how did they get in the Fox River? Some answers:

  • PCBs are a class of man-made chemicals used from 1954 to 1971 by NCR and Appleton Papers in the manufacture of carbonless paper and discharged into the lower Fox River. Five other companies — Georgia-Pacific (formerly Fort James Corp.), P.H. Glatfelter (formerly Bergstrom Paper), Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (formerly Wisconsin Tissue), Sonoco (formerly U.S. Paper Mills) and Riverside Paper — discharged various quantities of PCBs during paper recycling operations. More than 60,000 pounds of the chemicals remain in the river. Much higher quantities have migrated into Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
  • Banned in 1976, PCBs enter the food chain and are known to cause birth defects and reproductive failure in fish-eating birds and mammals. PCBs are thought to cause developmental, immunological, reproductive and neurobehavioral problems in people, and they’re considered a probable carcinogen.
  • Cleanup plans for the 39-mile length of the lower Fox River began in 1992 with discussions among the state Department of Natural Resources, local governments, the paper mills and conservationists. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency targeted the Fox River for cleanup in 1997 and is working in partnership with the DNR.
  • A cleanup plan released in 2001 by the DNR and EPA called for the companies to spend $308 million over seven years to dredge 7.25 million cubic yards of sediment from the river. Dredging would take place in Little Lake Butte des Morts (784,000 cubic yards) and from Little Rapids to the river mouth at Green Bay (6,466,300 cubic yards). No action is proposed for the less contaminated, 20-mile stretch between Appleton and Little Rapids. A formal Record of Decision, released in January 2003, affirmed the dredging solution for Little Lake Butte des Morts. A Record of Decision for the remainder of the river, and for the bay of Green Bay, is scheduled to be released this summer.

Cleanup plans can be found online at:

Other Web sites:
Paper companies:


Ed Culhane can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or by e-mail at eculhane@