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Paper Mill Emissions Making Family Sick

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Janice Kelb can tell which way the wind is blowing without looking out the window.

She can tell because she says when the wind blows smokestack emissions from the Brokaw Paper Mill her way, she gets a headache, nausea, and feels dizzy.

Her daughter Kerry says she breaks out in hives when the plume of smoke enters their yard.

The Kelbs say the problem is the smoke stack on the mill isn't high enough.

The stack meets Environmental Protection Agency and DNR standards, but the Mill is in a valley, and the Kelbs live on a hill 1/3 of a mile from the mill.

Janice says when the wind blows her way, the plume will come right up the road and over her house. And after 20 years, breathing "right out of the smokestack" has taken a toll on her health.

Janice has developed a type of thyroiditis and pre-luekemia.

Kerry is 22, and she has a disease that makes her weak and tired after little exertion.

The Kelbs say the effect on them has become worse over the years.

"We're becoming full of these chemicals our bodies can't take this many chemicals," said Janice.

The DNR tested the air quality at the Kelbs house for eight years, and except for two violations this February, the Brokaw Mill has always been in compliance with Ambient Air Standards set by the EPA.

The Kelbs say they can tell the difference in the air when they leave their house and travel to other areas.

They haven't sold the house and moved away because they are worried they could be held legally responsible if the next owners get sick.

Even though the height of the smokestack meets current standards, the DNR says their models don't take into account the swirling winds of the Wisconsin River Valley.

"Currently, there's no approved EPA model that takes into account this situation," said Rhonda O' Leary, an air engineer for the DNR.

Representatives of the Brokaw Mill had no comment on this story.

The Kelbs say they are looking to find a doctor that can find a link between their health problems and emissions from the Brokaw Paper Mill.