Cleanup of Fox River focusing on sunken boats

  • Associated Press
  • November 19, 2013 - 11:55 AM

DE PERE, Wis. — The focus of efforts to clean up the Lower Fox River of contaminated sediment has switched to five sunken vessels that need to be removed before work can resume next year.

The government-ordered dredging and capping project is mainly finished for the season and the work barge has been docked and battened down. Now, contractors are concentrating on removing the sunken tug boats and barges from the bottom of the river.

Neville Public Museum curator Kevin Cullen told WLUK-TV ( ) that an area just north of the Canadian National rail bridge in Green Bay was used as a ship boneyard in the early 1900s.

Cullen said he was concerned about the use of clamshells to grab the sunken boats.

"As an archaeologist, it does, it makes me cringe slightly," he said. Two of the vessels to be removed are believed to be tugboats. The others are wooden barges.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manager for the Fox River project, Jim Hahnenberg said paper mills along the Fox River regularly used polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, to make carbonless copy paper, and would flush contaminated production waste into the river.

PCB concentrations in the shallow waters where the wrecks are high, officials said. The wrecks can't be salvaged because of PCB contamination, but documenting the operation will be part of a larger story of transportation at the museum.

"We'll be adding new dimensions to that exhibit ... with the archaeology, the cultural history and the ecology," Cullen explained.

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