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Court: Appleton Papers Inc. not liable for Fox River PCB cleanup


APPLETON, WI (WTAQ) - Appleton Papers, Inc. is no longer responsible for paying for the PCB cleanup of the lower Fox River.

That's after a U.S. District Court judge in Green Bay ruled that Appleton didn' assume liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act when it bought the paper division from NCR Corporation in 1978.

CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund, wasn't formed until 1980. Judge William Griesbach said the paper company may have dumped harmful PCBs in the Fox River from 1956-1971. But at the time, releasing PCBs wasn't regulated by the government.

Appleton Papers, Inc. officials say the ruling is great news for the company.

"We're pleased with the ruling and that he listened to our position that we're not a liable party under CERCLA, and that the government made a mistake in pursuing that," Katherine Querard, spokesperson for Appleton Papers, Inc. told FOX 11.

The ruling comes before another hearing scheduled for Thursday in Federal District Court. In that hearing, the U.S. Justice Department has filed paperwork indicating it will ask Judge Griesbach to order NCR to resume cleanup on the Fox River.

In a motion filed by assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division, Ignacia Moreno says:

"One thing is clear: nothing in today's ruling diminishes the need for entry of a preliminary injunction requiring the resumption of full-scale dredging work at the Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund site."

Appleton Paper and NCR stopped dredging last summer. Attorneys say the two companies had already done most of the work, and would halt cleanup until legal responsibility could be settled in court.