U.S. Water News Online
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A legal attempt to overturn a settlement
with Georgia-Pacific Corp. involving environmental damages caused by
pollution in the Fox River has failed.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman rejected a citizens group's
claims that the 2002 settlement did not contain enough money for the
company's share of the environmental damages and it violated federal
``We're extremely disappointed,'' said Rebecca Katers, the Clean
Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin executive director.
In June 2002, state and federal officials said Georgia-Pacific
would give 1,000 acres of land and $10.1 million to pay for
environmental damages caused by polluting the Fox River more than
three decades ago.
Georgia-Pacific is one of seven paper companies liable for
wildlife damages from dumping polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in
the Fox River from the 1950s through the 1970s. The chemicals were
linked to reproductive and developmental problems in people, fish and
Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific and its subsidiary, Fort James
Operating Co., was the first to settle its natural resources damage
liability with the Natural Resources Trustees of the Lower Fox River.
The trustees include state Department of Natural Resources
representatives, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oneida
and Menominee Indian tribes.
Katers' group went to court in August 2002, asking the federal
judge to intervene in the settlement.
One state study suggested the company's share should be $73
million, Katers said.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife study released in 2000 pegged the
wildlife damage claims from the paper companies' pollution at $176
million to $333 million.
The money represents an attempt to define the harm the pollution
caused the ecosystem, to compensate the public for lost recreational
opportunities and to restore them.
Bruce Baker, the DNR's Fox River project manager, said Adelman's
decision to finalize the so-called consent decree and resolve the
legal challenge means work can begin the recreational projects called
for in the agreement with Georgia-Pacific.
Some of the money will pay for 11 projects, including riverfront
trails, boat access ramps and picnic areas along the river. It also
will help restore habitat for yellow perch, spotted musky and
In separate deals with the paper companies, state and federal
officials want to spend about $400 million to mostly dredge
PCB-contaminated sediment from the Fox River to clean up the
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