Sheboygan River and Harbor site
"People have largely avoided the Sheboygan River for decades because of the contamination. Restoring the river returns a sense of pride and ownership in the community. People are again appreciating the river and the wildlife it supports."
Natural Resources Educator, University of Wisconsin
Links and Data
Sheboygan River and Harbor site
Hazardous Waste Site | Sheboygan, WI | 1870s to Present
Beginning as early as the 1870s, various industrial facilities released PCBs, heavy metals, and PAHs to the Sheboygan River and the surrounding area. EPA designated the lower 14 miles of the Sheboygan River a Superfund site in 1986.
EPA worked together with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and some of the potentially responsible parties to clean up the contaminants. NOAA provided technical expertise to assist the effort. Cleanup activities took decades to complete, concluding in 2013.
NOAA and other trustees also assessed injuries to natural resources from contaminants at the site and identified restoration projects that would compensate the public for these injuries.
What Were the Impacts?
Since 1979, high PCB levels have prompted the State of Wisconsin to advise against consumption of all resident fish species, and recommend limited consumption of other species, between Sheboygan Falls and the mouth of the Sheboygan River. Ecological and biological injuries also occurred due to the adverse effects of contaminants on sediment, soil, invertebrates, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals in the vicinity.
What’s Happening Now?
On March 30, 2018, the Seboygan RIver and Harbor federal and state natural resource Trustees released a Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (PDF, 130 pages). The draft of the plan was released for public comment in December 2017.
On April 17, 2018, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin entered the final consent decrees announcing three settlements, with Tecumseh Products Co., Thomas Industries, Inc., and Wisconsin Public Service Corp., in excess of $4.5 million for natural resource damages at the Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund site. The settlements include two projects that protect 324 acres of unique habitat and improve public recreational access to natural resources.
- Acquisition of property on Willow Creek, high quality habitat supporting trout and salmon, with no current conservation protection.
- Acquisition of Amsterdam Dunes, a rare Great Lakes coastal dune and swale habitat, with only minimal conservation protection. Preservation will benefit unique plant and animal species, and the local community, expanding recreational access to Lake Michigan.
The settlements also provide funding for future restoration projects at these and other sites. NOAA and the co-trustees will jointly manage the settlement funds to implement projects described in the restoration plan.
In April 2020, the Trustees released a draft supplement to their March 2018 Restoration Plan for 30 days of public comment through May 4, 2020. The draft supplement proposes to fund five restoration projects for a total of approximately $801,000.
Public participation and review is an integral part of the restoration planning process. The Trustees will address public comments and will respond to those comments as part of a final restoration plan and environmental assessment supplement. Comments must be submitted in writing to:
- Trina Soyk
Sheboygan River Restoration Coordinator