HILBERT – Two of the most powerful men in town are feeling powerless right now, and a little lonely.
For the past four years, as many as 50 truckloads of PCB-contaminated soil have passed through the village from Little Lake Butte des Morts to the Hickory Meadows landfill in the Town of Chilton.
With the Little Lake cleanup near completion, Hilbert Village President Ken Stenklyft and school Supt. Tony Sweere were looking forward to the day the trucks and their contents stopped rumbling through the village on State 57. The route passes the village park and is within feet of an elementary school playground and a block from the district’s middle and high schools.
But then came word that about 2.7 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated soil dredged from the Fox River also will wind up in Hickory Meadows. While paper companies responsible for the cleanup haven’t chosen the route yet, State 57 is the straightest shot for the 85 truckloads a day that will head from near Green Bay to Hickory Meadows between April and November for the next nine years.
“They claim that these materials are not harmful, but I’m sure somebody made the same claim as they were being dumped in the river years ago,” Stenklyft says. PCBs have been linked to cancer and deformities in animals.
He and Sweere want the paper companies to find a different route to the landfill. Failing that, they would settle for a lull in the hauling between 7:15 and 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 and 3:30 p.m., when children are walking to and from school or getting on and off the school bus.
But they have no more control over what goes through the town on the highway than the county does over what goes in the landfill, which is owned by Veolia Environmental Services and licensed by the state to accept PCB-tainted soil up to 50 parts per million. While the paper companies responsible for the cleanup have said they will consider communities’ concerns about the route, their contractors have as much right to use the roads as any other hauler.
Also, there are few alternatives – at least in Calumet County. The trucks could take State 57 to State 114, then west to County BB, but they would still pass Hilbert’s park.