Federal gov. reaches tentative settlement with paper companies for PCB cleanup

WLUK file photo.
WLUK file photo.
The federal government and state of Wisconsin have reached proposed settlement agreements with multiple paper companies and municipal utilities for Fox River PCB cleanup.

According to documents filed in federal court Wednesday, three separate agreements have been reached. A federal judge still must approve them, which would only happen after a 30-day public comment period.

The proposed deals are:

* The City of Appleton, CBC Coating Inc., Menasha Corporation, the Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission, U.S. Paper Mills Corporation, and WTM I Company would would pay a total of $54 million toward the response costs and natural resource damages associated with the Site. The State would pay an additional $100,000 to resolve its own potential CERCLA liability, as alleged in certain counterclaims asserted by some of the defendants in this case.

The $54 million would be split in this way:
$14,700,000 by U.S. Paper Mills Corporation
$13,700,000 by Menasha Corporation
$12,200,000 by WTM I Company
$5,200,000 by the City of Appleton
$5,200,000 by the Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission
$3,000,000 by CBC Coating, Inc.

* The State would pay an additional $100,000 to resolve its own potential CERCLA liability, as alleged in certain counterclaims asserted by some of the defendants in this case.

* In addition, Kimberly-Clark would pay the United States and the State a total of $1,350,000 under this settlement.

* Also, NewPage, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, would grant the federal government claims totaling $1,157,254, that would be paid as allowed through that action.

The U.S. Department of Justice tells FOX 11 the money will be used in three ways:

* Slightly more than $45.9 million would be applied toward natural resource damages.

* Slightly more than $8 million would be paid into a segregated fund managed by the State to defray future costs that the State will continue to incur in overseeing ongoing cleanup work by non-settlers.

* Slightly less than $1.6 million would be paid into a Site-specific Superfund Special Account as partial reimbursement of past and future costs incurred by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to J.P. Causey Jr., the Vice President of WTM I Company, the settlement was reached after negotiations involving U.S. Magistrate Judge Aaron Goodstein.

"The settlement is the result of many months of negotiations between many parties, and reflects the settling parties' strong desire to resolve all claims and support the cleanup and restoration of the Fox River Site. This milestone could not have been reached without the able assistance of Judge Goodstein," Causey said in a statement.

According to the Department of Justice, the parties settling have already paid about $70 million towards the project. If approved, this would be the end of their involvement in this suit.

According to the release from the companies which settled, the paper recyclers and the municipalities that treated the parties' wastewater did not know the paper being recycled contained PCBs until after Appleton Coated and NCR stopped manufacturing the paper with PCBs in it.

The paperwork filed Wednesday does not mention NCR Corp., Georgia-Pacific, or PH Glatfelter, who have also been defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed by the federal government in 2010. NCR is responsible for the liability accrued from its previous ownership of Appleton Papers, which is now Appvion.

NCR issued the following statement: "

“We’re studying the proposals and at this point are unable to comment on any reactions to them.”

The state is a co-plantiff with the federal government as the trustee for the waters that were harmed by the contamination.

River cleanup work is expected to resume in the coming weeks.