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Legal wrangling on Fox River cleanup continues

A barge works on PCB cleanup on the Fox River in Green Bay, May 25, 2016. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) – The lawsuit regarding which paper companies will pay how much for Fox River PCB cleanup has taken a step towards a conclusion, but issues remain.

Federal Judge William Griesbach issued a 33-page decision, confirming what is called a “proposed consent decree” which allocates responsibility and costs as such:

  • - NCR/Appvion - $876 million (65%)
  • - Georgia Pacific - $164 million (12%)
  • - Glatfelter - $162 million (12%)
  • - Other parties who settled previously, $144 million (11%)

“The Proposed Consent Decree is also procedurally fair and reasonable. It is the result of arms-length negotiations among counsel who have been involved in the litigation surrounding the site for many years, representing sophisticated clients. The settlement relies on well-documented past cost figures, informed estimates of future costs, and a well-developed record regarding relevant allocation factors, including knowledge/culpability, mass discharged, cooperation, geographic considerations and litigation exposure,” Judge Griesbach wrote in late August.

The ruling also confirmed a previously-announced commitment by NCR to pay $200 million towards completion of the cleanup.

However, Glatfelter objects to several portions of the decision – particularly as they relate to the costs incurred by the government and what is recoverable, and says it believes a trial may be necessary on those points. As a result, the judge entered an order today vacating parts of the August decision, so those issues can be considered further.

Glatfelter's attorney and the U.S Department of Justice declined to comment. Fox 11 also requested comment from Appvion, Georgia-Pacific, plus the state government, but have not gotten replies.

Meanwhile, the actual cleanup work continues in the river, for the ninth year. More dredging is expected in 2018. In total, more than four million cubic yards of sediment have been dredged so far. The total cleanup costs for the Fox River Site will exceed $1 billion.

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