The Fox River Natural Resource Trustees released a draft update to the Restoration Plan & Environmental Assessment for a 30-day public comment period on how money should be spent from funds assessed to PCB polluters for damages. The comment period ends on May 6.
With a mission to protect human health and the environment, it is Clean Water Action Council’s position that some of the millions of dollars in damage award money, currently being considered for projects, should be used to better inform the public of the advisories and risks associated with eating fish contaminated with PCBs.
Since this money was awarded to compensate the public for damages caused from contaminating the fishery with PCBs, it is appropriate that some of the funds be used specifically for helping the public to understand how they were harmed, and what they need to do now to protect themselves and their families.
While past and future projects, such as restoring wetlands, stocking trout streams, and building facilities are certainly projects that can be appreciated by the public, they are not actually related to the harm to the fishery caused by PCBs. Better informing the public about the health hazards of PCBs would be.
The need to inform the public is a clear need. No government agency is sufficiently addressing the need. For example, it is very difficult to obtain a printed copy of the fish consumption advisories. They are not available at licensing agents. A call to the DNR, after a 21-minute hold, finally resulted in an agent agreeing to mail one.
Another example is that during the winter, a large percentage of the people ice fishing enter the Green Bay frozen waters by way of a town road access point. None of these have information posted about PCB contamination. At those points of entry, a multi-lingual sign should warn people and direct them to the website that has the advisories in their native language. This type of signage is also lacking at fishing spots along the Fox River. It is at these locations that more sustenance fishing occurs and by a less informed public.
Very little is being done to provide education about how to properly prepare contaminated fish in order to reduce PCB exposure. Often the traditional ways of preparing fish will remove only a small portion of the PCBs such as with stews and panfrying.
Some money from the PCB settlements should be set aside for informing the public about the harm to the fishery and how they can protect themselves and their families. Organizations and agencies should be invited to submit proposals for using the funding to accomplish this goal.
Dean Hoegger, Clean Water Action Council President
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.