Snippets from Jeff Lindsay:

Dredging Up Trouble:
Proposed Fox River Cleanup
Puts Wisconsin at Greater Risk

Hundreds of jobs are now being lost in the Fox Cities area of northeastern Wisconsin. Given our economic struggles, it is mind-boggling that local paper companies must pay $308 million or more to dredge up mud from the Fox River, according to a plan from the EPA and Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources to remove PCB-contaminated sediments. Such a financial burden will mean the loss of many jobs in coming years - and for what benefit? Trace amounts of a chemical (PCBs) are buried in sediment. Is there any hard evidence that they are causing over $300 million of harm? Is there any evidence that the environment will be better after dredging? Stirring sediments up will certainly release more chemicals into river waters, as was demonstrated in the recent dredging experiment in Green Bay supervised by the DNR that led to a 20-fold increase in PCB levels in the water. Dredging will harm species on the river bottom. Then the sediments must be landfilled or burned. Both processes are costly and both create environmental problems of their own such as wasted landfill space, huge amounts of wasted fuel, and unnecessary greenhouse gases. If PCBs are a problem, capping them in place is a far more economical and low-impact approach that has been approved by the EPA in other areas.

Any sane analysis must consider the impact on humans as well as other species. The loss of $300 million from local companies not only means hundreds of lost jobs, but harm to human health as well. Unemployment is associated with many adverse health effects due to stress, lost health benefits, and a less healthy lifestyle. Depression, alcoholism, and suicide are more likely. Entire families suffer. Even if dredging could be done safely, is it worth the cost?

When radical environmentalists demand that an alleged problem simply be "solved" without full consideration of the costs and benefits, the result has often been harm to people and the environment. PCBS are a problem, so let's dredge them out - never mind the costs and the risks. "Make those capitalists pay!" But the community and its people are the ones who pay. In this case, the cure is worse than the disease. I urge citizens to reject the proposal to dredge the Fox River.

For more information, see the Fox River Group Statement on a dredging trial, and other resources at Fox River Group. The other side of the story is told by the pro-dredging Clean Water Action Council.

Jeff Lindsay, Oct. 21, 2001

2004 Update: Dredging is well underway on the Fox River. Such a waste! You can see my photo of some of the dregding operations on a blog of mine.

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