$4.5M in Settlements for Sheboygan River Restoration

The United States and the State of Wisconsin have announced three settlements totaling over $4.5 million to resolve claims for the pollution of the Sheboygan River.

The Department of Justice reported that the three companies – Tecumseh Products Co., Thomas Industries, Inc., and Wisconsin Public Service Corp –  will resolve claims for natural resource damages at the Sheboygan River & Harbor Superfund Site brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund Law.

The Sheboygan River Site encompasses the lower 14 river miles of the river, from Sheboygan Falls downstream to and including the Sheboygan Harbor in Lake Michigan, as well as adjoining floodplain areas.

According to the complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement last week (December 12) in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the three companies are liable for historic industrial discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the Sheboygan River Site.

The restoration work enabled by this settlement will make significant contributions to the environment in the area of the Sheboygan River and nearby Lake Michigan,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are particularly pleased to have been able to work alongside the State of Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to achieve this positive outcome.”

Under CERCLA, federal and state natural resource trustees have authority to seek compensation for natural resources harmed by hazardous industrial waste and by-products discharged into the Sheboygan River.

The proposed settlements require payment of $1,295,500 to Sheboygan County as partial reimbursement for costs it incurred in acquiring the Amsterdam Dunes restoration project area for preservation and include $2,532,500 to be used on preservation and restoration activities consistent with a proposed Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment that is also being made available for public review and comment.

Of the possible alternatives, the draft Restoration Plan recommends preservation and implementation of restoration activities at the Willow Creek and Amsterdam Dunes project properties. The remainder of the settlement funds will reimburse trustee agencies for their work at the site.

The three companies previously paid approximately $32 million to clean up the Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund site under prior agreements with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. Additional millions of dollars were invested by the federal government through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative along with state, city and county funds to further speed river restoration and restore navigation to the Sheboygan River.