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Dredging begins at Sheboygan River site

Release Date: 06/21/2006
Contact Information: Mick Hans, (312) 353-5050, hans.mick@epa.gov Susan Pastor, (312) 353-1325, pastor.susan@epa.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 06-OPA105

CHICAGO (June 21, 2006) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 said today that a new phase of cleanup at the upper river portion of the Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund site begins this week. The project will continue under EPA supervision, in consultation with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, through the fall. Construction vehicles and workers in required protective clothing may be visible on the riverfront near Sheboygan Falls' Rochester Park.

Wastewater containing PCBs and heavy metals was released by the former Tecumseh Products compressor manufacturing facility in Sheboygan Falls. The plant closed in 2003. An EPA cleanup decision in May 2000 required excavation of contaminated soil at the facility property, removal of 33,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the upper river, 50,000 cubic yards of sediment from the inner harbor and contaminated soil from floodplains along the river, plus additional study and long-term monitoring. Total projected cost: $40 million.

The first phase of the cleanup, from August to October 2004, focused on stopping PCB-soil and ground water contamination at the former factory property from further polluting the river.

The 2006 upper river work -- paid for by Pollution Risk Services, which bought the Tecumseh facility -- includes the near-shore area, armored areas (river edges reinforced to prevent erosion) and the soft sediment deposits that settle on the river bottom where the current is slower.

Sediment areas that are near the former factory property, near-shore and armored areas will be removed with excavation equipment after they are drained. The soft sediment deposits will be dredged directly from the river, piped to an on-shore area to dry and then sent to a licensed landfill. Water pumped out during the dredging process will be treated and released back to the river.

The complete Superfund site includes the lower 14 miles of the river from the Sheboygan Falls Dam to the inner harbor, before flowing into Lake Michigan. Future phases of the cleanup will address the middle river, lower river and inner harbor. The upper river is being cleaned first so that lower portions won't be recontaminated later.

PCBs were once widely used by industry as coolants, insulators and lubricants. They are linked to cancer, as well as reproductive and developmental problems. PCB-contaminated river sediment impacts fish, wildlife and people as it rises through the food chain. In 1978, Wisconsin advised area residents not to eat fish from the Sheboygan River because of the contamination. In 1987, the state also issued an advisory not to eat wildlife from the area. The advisories are still in effect. Heavy metals found in Sheboygan River sediment include arsenic, chromium, copper, lead and zinc.

A May 2006 fact sheet and more site information is online at http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/sheboygan. Residents with questions may also contact EPA community involvement coordinator Susan Pastor, (800) 621-8431, Ext. 31325 (business hours only), or pastor.susan@epa.gov.

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