Vinland Fights PCBs

October 17, 2003

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) – A small Winnebago County town has vowed to oppose a plan to bury PCB-contaminated sediment from the Fox River in their community.

More than 200 residents of the town of Vinland voted against the idea at a meeting late Thursday and agreed to take their fight to the Winnebago County Board on Tuesday.

The residents say they would rather see the PCBs destroyed, using a glass furnace technology developed by Neenah-based Minergy Corp.

“There shouldn’t be any question about it,” said Margaret Potratz, who already is dealing with arsenic in the groundwater. “It should be done properly. I don’t want to worry about something else contaminating our well.”

The residents met for two hours to ask questions of experts on the government’s plan to clean a stretch of the Fox River of PCB-contaminated sediment and to bury the dried sediment in a landfill.

But they didn’t have an answer to their big question: Can they prevent a Vinland landfill operated by paper company Georgia Pacific from accepting the contaminated sediment?

Chuck Koehler, the town’s attorney, explained state law limits
the town’s authority over landfills to negotiating such issues as hours of operation, dirt control and fees.

“The town of Vinland, just like any other town, can’t just say no,” Koehler said.

Town supervisors said they would fight the plan, but they needed residents to start a political campaign.

“If you sit back and do nothing, the probability is greater that it (a PCB landfill) will be here,” Koehler told the crowd. “The town’s powers are limited. Your power, through your
representatives, is unlimited.”

PCBs were released into the Fox River by seven paper mills that made or recycled carbonless copy paper from the 1950s through the 1970s. The now-banned chemicals are linked to reproductive and
developmental problems in people, fish and other wildlife.

The first phase of the cleanup calls for dredging 784,000 cubic
yards of polluted sediment from the Little Lake Butte des Morts stretch of the river and burying the dried sediment in a landfill. Georgia Pacific has offered the use of its landfill in Vinland.

The state and federal governments have approved the deal. Georgia Pacific must negotiate a landfill agreement with the town and the DNR must approve the landfill design before the company’s
landfill can accept PCBs.

The buried PCBs would not deteriorate for at least another hundred years, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Town officials have lobbied lawmakers to use glass furnace
technology to destroy the PCBs and turn the sediments into an environmentally safe glass aggregate that could go into road construction.

The DNR has said the technology is not cost effective for the first phase of the cleanup.