NCR agrees to spend $200 million on Fox River cleanup in settlement with state, federal officials

Lee Bergquist
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

State and federal officials have reached a settlement with NCR Corp. for $200 million in additional funds for the cleanup of toxic chemicals from the Fox River in northeastern Wisconsin, Attorney General Brad Schimel's office reported on Monday. 

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel

The settlement between NCR and the U.S. Justice Department and state Justice Department completes one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history, with total cleanup costs now expected to exceed $1 billion. 

The Fox River case was included in the state Justice Department's report of third quarter environmental enforcement cases. 

Federal prosecutors had announced an agreement with NCR in January in which the company agreed to take on sole responsibility for the remaining removal of contaminated sediments from the river in the greater Green Bay area. At the time, the judge in the case had not approved the settlement. 

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The work of removing sediments containing polychlorinated biphenyls and other contaminants began in 2004 and is expected to end in 2018, according to federal officials. 

PCBs had many uses in manufacturing, including the production of carbonless paper manufactured between 1954 and 1971.

The chemicals, which can be found in the tissue of fish and can cause health problems in humans eating the fish, were discharged into the river and settled in the sediments of the Fox and Green Bay. Upstream, Little Lake Butte des Morts also was affected.

Schimel also reported the agency had modified an existing agreement with the City of Waukesha to require emergency backup pumps for wells if there are delays in a project to obtain water from Lake Michigan, as a replacement to city wells, and to comply with federal and state safe drinking water standards for radium.

The Justice Department estimated the value of the judgment at $650,000. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in July the city would have to spend up to $3.1 million for a temporary water treatment system, if there were delays in getting Lake Michigan water. 

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In the third quarter report, Schimel, a Republican, reported settlements of $735,485. That did not include the joint settlement with federal authorities in the NCR case.

The activity in the first nine months of the year compares with $449,253 in all of 2016, which represented a 20-year low in forfeitures in environmental cases handled by the Justice Department. 

In 2015, in his first year in office, Schimel reached settlements of $734,127, the second lowest in two decades.