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Case Summary: NCR Corporation Agrees to End Litigation and Complete PCBs Cleanup at Fox River Superfund Site

On August 23, 2017, a consent decree between the United States, state of Wisconsin, and settling defendants NCR Corporation (NCR) and Appvion, Inc. was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Under the consent decree, NCR will perform and fund the remaining contaminated sediment cleanup work at the Fox River Superfund site  in Green Bay, Wisconsin at an estimated cost of over $200 million.

The cleanup work will reduce the risks to humans and wildlife posed by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in bottom sediment of the Fox River. PCBs do not degrade naturally, but instead concentrate in the environment and the food chain resulting in health hazards to people, fish, and wildlife. The Lower Fox River project involves the cleanup of sediment contaminated with PCBs, as well as the restoration of the natural resources damaged by these contaminants.

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Information about NCR Corporation and Appvion

The NCR Corporation (originally National Cash Register) is an American computer hardware, software, and electronics company. The company began as the National Manufacturing Company of Dayton, Ohio, and was established to manufacture and sell the first mechanical cash register. In 1953, chemists at NCR submitted a patent for "pressure responsive record materials" for a carbon-less copy paper, which was commercialized as “NCR Paper.” From 1954 to 1971, PCBs were used in the emulsion to manufacture NCR copy paper.

Appvion, Inc., founded in 1907, is headquarterd in Appleton, Wisconsin. Appvion purchased NCR’s paper manufacturing facilities in the Fox River Valley in the late 1970s.

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Information about the Fox River Superfund Site

The Fox River was one of last and largest uncontrolled sources of PCBs to Lake Michigan. Located in northeastern Wisconsin, it begins at the Menasha and Neenah channels leading from Lake Winnebago and flows northeast for 39 miles where it discharges into Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Approximately 270,000 people live in the communities along the river. The river has 12 dams and includes the highest concentration of pulp and paper mills in the world.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the paper mills routinely used PCBs in their operations, which ultimately contaminated the river. The manufacture of NCR paper, along with the recycling of NCR paper by various paper mills, resulted in the release of PCBs into the Fox River via numerous wastewater discharge points. During that period, several paper companies discharged approximately 700,000 pounds of PCBs into the Fox River. Prior to commencement of cleanup at the site it was estimated that there were 14 million yards of contaminated sediments, which contained 65,000 pounds of PCBs, and an estimated 620 pounds of PCBs were flushed from the river into Green Bay annually.

PCBs are a hazardous substance and probable human carcinogen. Risks and pathways addressed by the cleanup include health risks from people ingesting or touching contaminants in the river sediments. Because fish and wildlife are contaminated with PCBs, people who eat contaminated fish or waterfowl may suffer adverse health effects. Fish consumption advisories for the site remain in effect.

More information is available from the Fox Rivers Superfund site profile page.

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Overview of the Consent Decree

Under the consent decree, NCR, as the sole work party, will perform and fund the remaining sediment cleanup work at the site estimated to cost over $200 million. The settlement with NCR also resolves the government’s potential claims against Appvion, Inc., which purchased NCR’s paper manufacturing facilities in the Fox River Valley in the late 1970s. Appvion will not be involved in the remaining cleanup work at the Site.

NCR also stipulated that it is jointly/severally liable for performance of long-term monitoring and cap maintenance. In its enforcement discretion, EPA and the state of Wisconsin will initially seek performance for this work from other parties at the site, including Georgia Pacific Corporation and P.H. Glatfelter. With regard to past and future costs, NCR stipulated that it is jointly/severally liable for the United States and state future costs, and in its enforcement discretion, EPA and the state will initially seek collection of those future costs from other parties. NCR will not be obligated to pay any of the United State’s past costs.

The settlement also includes a waiver of claims by NCR against all other parties at the site. The waiver of claims includes any potential CERCLA § 106(b) claim NCR may have for reimbursement against the United States for costs NCR spent pursuant to a 2007 unilateral administrative order. All parties to the agreement agreed not to appeal prior orders, including divisibility rulings which were favorable to the U.S.

This settlement ends the governments’ litigation at the site with NCR.

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Contact Information

For more information, contact 

Richard Murawski
Office of Regional Counsel  
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 5
77 West Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL  60604

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