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EPA Administrator Wheeler Wraps Up Visit to Wisconsin Highlighting Trump Administration’s Superfund Cleanup Progress, Water Infrastructure Investment

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Waukesha, Wis. (August 12, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrapped up his visit to the Badger State making a series of announcements related to the Superfund program demonstrating the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to the American people to cleanup highly polluted sites across the country. At the Fox River Superfund Site in Green Bay, Administrator Wheeler announced the completion of more than two decades of cleanup with U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher and the latest updates to the Administrator’s Emphasis List. At the last stop of the day, Administrator Wheeler announced the 26th WIFIA loan issued under President Trump, which will provide $137 million to the City of Waukesha to ensure access to safer drinking water.

“Wisconsin has significantly improved its environmental health in the past couple of years,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “In only the last three months, EPA has redesignated several areas of the state into compliance for air quality standards, announced the final clean-up of a Superfund site in Green Bay, and allocated more than $100 million in drinking water infrastructure upgrades in the state. Wisconsin is on a roll, and EPA is happy to help our state and local partners do even more."

“Today really showcased the breadth of work EPA is doing in the state of Wisconsin,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “Not only can communities along the Fox River finally breathe a sigh of relief with the completion of this multi-decade cleanup, but residents of Waukesha will soon have a safe and secure drinking-water source.”

The Fox River Superfund Site is one of the largest Superfund sediment projects ever completed in the U.S. The cleanup included dredging more than 6.5 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediments across 39 miles of the Lower Fox River. The cleanup also included 275 acres of capping and 780 acres of sand spreading throughout the river to reduce PCB contamination.

“The Fox River Superfund Site and Cat Island Restoration Project demonstrate that smart investments and sustained commitment to our waterways can have a tremendous impact on the health of our community,” said U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-08). “The EPA's assistance has been critical to this effort, and I'm glad that Administrator Wheeler had the opportunity to see this success firsthand. Water is central to our way of life in Northeast Wisconsin, and I look forward to continue working to strengthen programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, that will protect this resource for generations to come.”

In 2019, EPA and the State of Wisconsin negotiated a settlement with P.H. Glatfelter Company and Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP regarding the $70 million cleanup of the Fox River that will ensure the long-term success of the cleanup and will allow reuse and redevelopment of the area for the benefit of local residents. Both companies will perform long-term monitoring and maintenance work at the site, which was contaminated by PCBs from pulp and paper mills in the 1950s and 1960s.

This settlement was part of the over $570 million in private party commitments to cleanup Superfund sites and approximately $283 million to reimburse the Agency for past costs associated with cleanup work at Superfund sites across the country in Fiscal Year 2019. Additionally, EPA billed PRPs approximately $108 million – the largest amount to date for one fiscal year – for oversight costs associated with cleanup work performed by PRPs at Superfund sites.

Additionally, the agreement requires the P.H. Glatfelter Company to pay the Agency $20 million for past cleanup and to reimburse EPA and the state of Wisconsin for their future oversight costs for a total settlement value of $90 million. The 2019 settlement concludes 20 years of successful enforcement work to hold PRPs responsible for cleanup at the site. The total value of the work performed by PRPs plus costs reimbursed to EPA and the state will exceed $1 billion.

While at the Fox River Superfund Site, Administrator Wheeler announced (LINK) the ninth updated to the Administrator’s Emphasis List of Superfund Sites Targeted for Immediate, Intense Action (Administrator’s Emphasis List). In this latest update, the Quendall Terminals site in Renton, Wash. was removed from the list as the final cleanup plan has been signed and the milestone of issuing the final Record of Decision is now complete.

Building on the Superfund Task Force recommendations, EPA added a specific project to the Administrator’s Emphasis List that involves reviewing sites that have been proposed but not yet added to the National Priorities List. By December 2020, EPA will review and evaluate the current status of such sites and determine if it is still necessary to continue the NPL listing process for those sites or if EPA can withdraw the proposal. This project aims to provide clarity, transparency and certainty regarding NPL site status.

Since the creation of the Administrator’s Emphasis List in 2017, 20 sites have been removed from the list after achieving critical milestones that furthered site cleanup or solved issues slowing the pace of cleanups. With this update, there are a total of 14 Superfund sites on the Administrator’s Emphasis List.

At the Barstow Plaza gazebo in Waukesha, Administrator Wheeler announced a $137 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the City of Waukesha, Wisc. to help implement the Great Lakes Water Supply Project with U.S. Congressman Bryan Steil (WI-01).

“Today is the result of years of work from folks across Waukesha County. Thank you to Jim Sensenbrenner, Paul Farrow, EPA Administrator Wheeler, and many others who have worked diligently to ensure our community has safe drinking water. When the federal government listens to our local communities and responds to their needs, we all reap the benefits. This is a win for our health, a win for jobs, and a win for the future of Waukesha. I will continue fighting to bring jobs to Southeast Wisconsin, lower costs on families, and create a healthier community,” said U.S. Congressman Bryan Steil (WI-01).

This WIFIA loan marks the 26th under President Trump. In the past three years the Trump Administration has invested $38 billion dollars in clean water infrastructure, supporting 7,000 projects, and helping create 21,000 jobs across country.

The Great Lakes Water Supply Project will provide the City of Waukesha with a new, safer source for drinking water. The project includes the construction of infrastructure to obtain, store, and distribute drinking water from Milwaukee Water Works to City of Waukesha customers.

“Waukesha’s current water supply is severely drawn down and contaminated with naturally-occurring radium. Our Lake Michigan water supply project will ensure that our community can rely on a safe and sustainable water supply for generations to come,” said Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly. “The federal WIFIA loans help ensure that we are constructing it at the lowest possible cost, which is great news for our residential and business ratepayers.”

“WIFIA loans have very low interest rates and also allow us to repay the loans over 38 years. That means that future users will share in the costs of this historic investment in critical infrastructure, lowering costs for our current customers,” said Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak.

Yesterday, Administrator Wheeler kicked off his visit to Wisconsin announcing the forthcoming delisting of the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern, meeting with agricultural partners improving the quality of the Great Lakes, and touring Brownfields redevelopment progress in downtown Green Bay.