Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, approximately 55 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund site includes the lower 14 miles of the Sheboygan River from Sheboygan Falls to the Sheboygan Harbor. Industrial activities along the Sheboygan River released polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, and oil residues within the waterway and the surrounding environment. The former Tecumseh Product Co. plant in Sheboygan Falls, located on the upper river, is considered the primary source of PCB contamination in the river sediment. PCBs have been detected in fish, wildlife, surface water, sediments in the harbor and river, and in floodplain soils. As a result, in 1987 the U.S. EPA designated the lower 14 miles of the Sheboygan River a Superfund Site. The U.S. EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are overseeing cleanup of the contaminants in the river system.  

Pollution Risk Services has been tasked with implementing the cleanup in accordance with Superfund regulatory requirements. It’s not uncommon that when faced with such a daunting task requiring in-depth knowledge of the regulatory maze that will drive the project, owners and responsible parties become quickly overwhelmed. Pollution Risk Services turned to SME to help them wade through the regulations and prepare a plan that was both compliant and sensible. Based on our unique knowledge of the site history, our in-depth understanding of applicable regulatory requirements, and our record for negotiation and collaboration with the U.S. EPA, SME was retained to manage the mammoth remediation effort. Through on-going monitoring and remediation oversight and regular discussions with the U.S. EPA, the ultimate project goal is to achieve a Remediation Complete Certificate from the U.S. EPA.  

Since 2004, SME has been working to restore the site to its pre-impacted condition, negotiating remediation and monitoring strategies with the U.S. EPA, and monitoring the post remedial reduction of PCBs in the river through sediment and fish sampling. We annually monitor groundwater and provide recommendations about how groundwater might impact the river. We perform annual bathymetry monitoring to check for sediment scour that might release PCBs, and monitor harbor infrastructure that may impact sediment scour potential.  We prepare annual reports to summarize the project status for review by the U.S. EPA and Wisconsin DNR. We also perform sediment sampling along the entire river every five years until the sediment concentrations are safe for wildlife and humans.
Currently, we are working with the U.S. EPA to revise the Record of Decision to require breakwater inspection and maintenance for outdated remedial requirements, which will result in more efficient and timely remediation and will reduce overall costs. SME demonstrated that the breakwaters do not protect the river from scour that release residual PCBs and also showed the breakwaters increased scour. We anticipate the Remediation Complete Certificate will be issued by 2020 while monitoring will continue until 2043.