Bringing Back the Bay Tour celebrates milestone in Fox River cleanup

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- The Clean Bay Backers hosted their 6th Annual Bringing Back the Bay Tour on Monday.

The citizen advisory committee to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) updated elected officials and community leaders on the cleanup efforts happening in the Fox River and lower Green Bay.

"We have the largest PCB cleanup coming to an end in Green Bay. Over $1 billion has been spent to clean this up," said Julia Noordyk, water quality specialist with UW Sea Grant Institute.

The toxic, manmade chemicals on the bottom of the Fox River have been removed through dredging over the last 16 years in an effort to improve the environment, protect human health, and reduce and eliminate fish consumption advisories.

"We have settlements in place, and the responsible corporations have agreed to finish the cleanup and pay all of our oversight costs for years to come," said Beth Olson, Fox River PCB Cleanup Project Manager with the Wisconsin DNR.

Olson explained the plan in place at the DNR to continue monitoring those companies and the water quality of the Fox River for decades to come as the focus shifts to protecting the investments that have already been made.

"When you're on the Great Lakes, you've got to realize how important water is," said Sen. Dave Hansen, (D-Green Bay), "and that's why we're here today to make sure the bay will be taken care of moving forward."

"It doesn't happen overnight," said Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay). "Think of what the river and the bay looked like before you were born, before I was born even. It was very contaminated. There weren't any fish living in there. It's all different now."

The dredging and capping chapter of the Fox River Cleanup Project is expected to end in November.

The Clean Bay Backers plans to focus on harmful algae blooms and addressing the excess of nutrients pouring into the water system in runoff from farm fields and urban areas.