$4.5 Million Agreement Reached in Sheboygan River Pollution Case
Tecumseh Products Co., Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPSC), and Thomas Industries, Inc., have reached an agreement to pay out more than $4.5 million in settlement funds in order to rectify claims that the companies polluted the Sheboygan River. Under the settlement, Tecumseh Products will contribute $3.8 million, Thomas Industries will pay $550,000, and WPSC will foot $166,750.
The Sheboygan River and Harbor Site were originally contaminated as a result of PCB use at a die-cast plant operated by Tecumseh Products and the water was listed as a federal Superfund site due to its high pollution levels. The settlement comes after a $32 million cleanup of the river has wrapped up. This was part of an agreement made with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Additional millions were invested by the federal government through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to accelerate river restoration and restore navigation to the river. Dredging of the river was completed in 2013. A study was then conducted in 2014 and found that the chemical levels had dropped significantly.
Kohler Co. was also included on the list of companies responsible, but is not part of the current settlement agreement. The company’s role remains unresolved, according to the Department of Justice. “Technically Kohler isn’t settling their natural resources claim, so there would potentially be a claim out there. Whether anybody pursues it would have to be analyzed, but at this point, Kohler is basically not involved by their choice,” said Lorraine Stoltzfus, assistant attorney general for the State of Wisconsin.
Kohler Co. issued the following statement regarding the matter: “Kohler Co. is aware of the settlement to resolve claims for natural resource damages at the Sheboygan River & Harbor Superfund Site. Kohler is not part of this settlement because the company did not contribute PCBs to the river.”
Matt Cullen, senior communications specialist for WPSC, said: “Our goal in this process has been to complete a comprehensive remediation of the former manufactured gas plant site. Wisconsin Public Service began its remediation efforts in the 1990s, and along the way has worked with state and federal environmental stakeholders to properly address residual materials at the site. While on-site remediation and restoration efforts ended in 2013, we continue to monitor the site, and remain committed to working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources and other stakeholders to ensure the site continues to meet all applicable environmental standards.”
Thomas Industries supplied the compressors, vacuum pumps, and liquid pumps in Sheboygan, and representatives claim the company cooperated with the EPA and that chemical levels are now within acceptable limits. Andrew Schiesl, vice president and general counsel for Gardner Denver Thomas, stated of the recent settlement: “We absolutely support and are pleased that the carrier reached a settlement rather than litigate this. We still have a plant in Sheboygan, it’s an important community for us, and we’d much rather those dollars go to cleaning things up than to litigate.”
The pollution dates back to as early as the 1870s when industrial facilities began disposing of excess chemicals into the water.