While the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, continues on the Fox River, the state and federal justice departments are going to court, filing a major Superfund lawsuit against paper companies. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Thursday that they want to make sure the nine companies, plus two municipal wastewater plants, can be held liable for the damage they caused. “The Department of Justice at both the federal and state level have managed to enter into settlement agreements over the years with a number of different companies, however there are a number of different companies that we have not been able to reach a settlement with, so we have today filed a lawsuit against them to move this process forward,” Van Hollen said.
“The action today by the U.S. Department of Justice is a lawsuit filed against the parties who have not settled yet,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. “Part of the river’s been cleaned up, there’s a lot more work to do.”
Van Hollen noted that there is a statute of limitations for a lawsuit in the case. “That time is about to expire, and since we haven’t settled with some of those companies we are filing the lawsuit to preserve our claims,” he said. The state and federal governments have reached an agreement with Georgia-Pacific. “They have settled with the U.S. Department of Justice, with EPA and with Wisconsin, accepting complete liability for a geographic section of the river,” said Frank. “We believe that’s based on sound science and data and what we know about which companies deposited PCBs over the years. They’ve fully stepped up to accept their part of the liability.” The multi-year project is expected to cost about a billion dollars.
WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter contributed to this report