(Updated, 5:03 p.m.)
By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU –Despite test results that revealed hazardous chemicals and dioxins along the Thomas Street corridor, the city appears to be committed to moving forward with a planned road construction project for the area.
Wausau Pilot and Review first broke this story on Tuesday afternoon, including a page from the Sand Creek Consultants’ test results, and has steadily reported on this controversy since April.
In response to the tests, city officials on Thursday issued a news release outlining the lab results and offering several statements.
“Given the current information, the WDNR feels the construction can be managed and the project can continue to move forward,” the press release stated. “The City will develop any soil management plans in cooperation with the WDNR to safely and properly manage the exceeding state cleanup standard during construction, if necessary. The City will work closely with the WDNR to establish any necessary management plans to safely construct the road.”
But Ted Warpinski, an attorney for the citizen group that paid for the independent testing, is urging city officials to table further action on the Thomas Street reconstruction until the soil contamination issue can be further evaluated.
“With all this, you can see that the data raises more questions than it answers, not the least of which is what to do about it,” Warpinski wrote, in a letter Public Works Director Eric Lindman. “Your press release suggests the ultimate decision to move forward with the project is a foregone conclusion.”
Alderman Dennis Smith, in an email to Wausau Pilot and Review, called the discrepancy between the city’s testing and the independent testing troubling.
“Frankly, at this point in time, I think that the city should take a step back and carefully compare their test results to those compiled by the citizen’s testing authority to see where they match and where they differ,” Smith said. ” So, should the residents of the impacted area. Once this is complete, both sides should sit down and review the results of the comparison, and possibly arrive at a mutual acceptable course of action.”
The news release pointed out that dioxins are “widespread in the environment and can be man-made or naturally occurring.”
But Warpinski, in his letter to Lindman, questioned why the city omitted the known connection to the cancer-causing agent Pentachlorophenol given the proximity of the construction project to the former Crestline manufacturing site.
“There is abundant literature on the topic going back decades,” Warpinski wrote.
Concerns about dioxins along Thomas Street have existed and have been documented for decades and formed the basis of a 2008 lawsuit involving 144 plaintiffs who claimed chemicals in the area caused cancer and other diseases.
The latest round of tests, which are 10 times more sensitive than previous tests ordered by the city, were completed in January and were funded by neighborhood residents.
Matt Thompson, the DNR liaison for the Thomas Street project, is currently reviewing the independent test results and comparing them with previous dioxin tests.
Thompson could not be reached for comment.
The test results, along with the overall plan for Thomas Street, will be discussed tonight at a meeting of the city’s capital improvements and street maintenance committee. That meeting, which is open to the public, begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be held at City Hall in council chambers.
This story will be updated.Press Release-Private Sample Results