By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Despite repeated assurances from city officials that any excavating of Thomas Street soils would include a water truck to minimize potential toxic dust transferred to nearby residents’ yards, crews spent several hours Thursday digging in the corridor without that safety measure in place.

City officials were unaware of the excavation, which was performed by a subcontractor hired by consultant AECOM, until concerned residents called in with complaints. Wausau Mayor Rob Mielke said Tito Excavating is working on excavation for proposed bio-filtration ponds, soil pits to determine soil types and filtration in the project area.

“Apparently, work was started early today by AECOM for that project,” Mielke said, adding that work was stopped for the day after a complaint was called in.

“We will make sure that there is a water truck there for dust control measures for future work being done on Thomas Street,” Mielke said.

Residents are calling the action careless, adding fuel to their complaints that the city is not taking the environmental risks in the area seriously. Independent tests performed in January revealed that hazardous chemicals are present in the surface soil in the area, which is slated for a major road reconstruction project. Neighbors are concerned that disturbing the soil has the potential to create significant health and public safety hazards for people who live and work in the area, a worry that city officials have repeatedly dismissed.

Mielke said crews will take dust control measures in the future but added: “A reminder, again, we have not been directed by any regulatory agencies to do any soil mitigation and the Department of Health Services has determined that there are no health risks related to the soils and test results.”

Much of the area has had a history of environmental contamination traced back to the widespread use of a chemical called Penta at the former Crestline site, which runs along Thomas Street. Now classified by the World Health Organization as a known carcinogen, Penta was used in manufacturing at the site from 1946 to 1986. The current owner, Wauleco, was sued in 2008 by 144 people who claimed toxicity in the soil and groundwater caused cancer and other health problems.

For months, residents living in the area have fought the project amid concerns that digging up the dirt in the area could spread toxic soil further into the neighborhood. Last year, neighborhood resident Tom Kilian presented members of the council with a petition signed by more than 200 people who oppose the reconstruction, but officials ultimately voted to move the project forward.

State documents show that, as recently as 2016, DNR officials considered the conditions at the Wauleco site to be “very challenging,” estimating that as much as 420,000 gallons of “free product” still existed in the subsurface. The Wauleco site is just yards from where excavation took place on Thursday.

Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function, according to the WHO. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions.

9 replies on “Excavation on Thomas Street alarms residents”

  1. From the story above:
    “Despite repeated assurances from city officials that any excavating of Thomas Street soils would include a water truck to minimize potential toxic dust transferred to nearby residents’ yards…..”.
    Yet: “Mielke said crews will take dust control measures in the future but added: “A reminder, again, we have not been directed by any regulatory agencies to do any soil mitigation and the Department of Health Services has determined that there are no health risks related to the soils and test results.”

    So which is it, Mr. Bug Sprayer? Yet another shining example of your utter incompetence. Congrats!

    1. Call:
      “City officials were unaware of the excavation, which was performed by a subcontractor hired by consultant AECOM, until concerned residents called in with complaints. Wausau Mayor Rob Mielke said Tito Excavating is working on excavation for proposed bio-filtration ponds, soil pits to determine soil types and filtration in the project area.”

      “Apparently, work was started early today by AECOM for that project,” Mielke said, adding that work was stopped for the day after a complaint was called in.

      “We will make sure that there is a water truck there for dust control measures for future work being done on Thomas Street,” Mielke said”

      “Mielke said crews will take dust control measures in the future but added: “A reminder, again, we have not been directed by any regulatory agencies to do any soil mitigation and the Department of Health Services has determined that there are no health risks related to the soils and test results.”

      Much of the area has had a history of environmental contamination traced back to the widespread use of a chemical called Penta at the former Crestline site, which runs along Thomas Street. Now classified by the World Health Organization as a known carcinogen, Penta was used in manufacturing at the site from 1946 to 1986. The current owner, Wauleco, was sued in 2008 by 144 people who claimed toxicity in the soil and groundwater caused cancer and other health problems.”

      Mayor Mielke, he made a promise and the excavation was stopped, the equipment has been in the neighborhood for about a week… your remarks are insolent and biased to the extreme… you desire to attack and smear others are contemptible and what does it matter what a man does to feed his family and pay his bills, he is now the Mayor and I bet you have never ever spoken to him… he will be open and respectful and you could learn from that…

      We would all appreciate if you would stop carping… complain or find fault continually about trivial matters:

      1. Enk, you know SO little about me or facts in general, it’s honestly funny. But hey, you keep on living (and typing about) your self-important life, sparky.
        I was simply quoting the story above. If that chaffs your bum, too bad.

      2. Call,I know what I know, I have information from a variety of sources, I have actually spoken to and with the mayor… You saw fit to quote part of the story… but since context is important, I posted the parts that you omitted.

        Glad you think that my life’s important, so is your buddy… but so are the people living in this area with the toxins in the soil, the variety of reports that have become a source of controversy, and when I drove through the neighborhood, I noticed the machines and wondered what was happening, if it was my neighborhood, I would have asked…

        When the water pipes were relined a few years back and holes were placed up and down the street, I talked to the work crew… good guys from Detroit who we contracted to do the job… I talk to people and ask questions… since I have attempted to reach out to you and explained who I am and what I do… you should appreciate that calling other people, especially the Mayor or City council names or attempting to belittle them or any hard working person will be a response… it doesn’t chaff my bum… but it does offend my sense of respect and frosts… has a chilling or dispiriting quality, especially one conveyed by a cold manner: I was not raised to be like that and when you put those statements out… I will object… I know rude when I see it, so try some honest rhetoric for a change.

  2. The loss of confidence in the Mayor of Wausau is evidenced here. As call points out, there are two divergent quotes to deal with.

    Thomas Street appears resolved, the City is going forward with this project. But, there are these little (or large) flares up on stuff like this that create discontent. These are avoidable situations.

    1. Dino,

      I agree that this didn’t have to happen.

      In terms of the bulldozing and excavating, I believe that had the City used the soil management measures it indicated it would, as well as perhaps given people in the neighborhood some sort of courteous, advance heads-up about it, it could have improved the outcome. These couple things may have presented some sense of controlled order on a major (and historically sensitive) project, and an indication that the City was cognizant of and responsive to citizens’ sentiments.

      But the reason for the excavation — per the article — is problematic on its face, in my opinion. I feel that there should have ideally been a dialogue between the City and the community (or, at the least, neighborhood) about the potential location and intake of the bio-filtration pond, given the following docs:

      http://www.thomasst.org/thomas-street-retention-basins-july-2018.pdf

      After concerns about the neighborhood contamination have been expressed for years (going back to the early 1990s for inquiries to the state, at least), it shouldn’t take an open records request of DNR documents to learn that a potential open pond in the neighborhood is going to take drainage from the Wauleco site. The City not telling residents about this earlier was either uncouth or simply insensitive, from my perspective. The municipal government (with maybe the DNR) and community should have been able to have a productive dialogue on this issue.

      While a member of the DNR indicated to me that he was not concerned about rain runoff from the Wauleco site, I do not share his sentiment at this time. Also, I find it puzzling that multiple yards not far from this potential basin location had soil dioxin (WDNR) RCL exceedances in past sampling, and no follow-up testing of the surface or near-surface soils has apparently been pursued by the City, County, or State governments — just regular folks.

      1. Tom, if you ever want to come on the podcast, and explain this in detail, let me know. I confess to not being as knowledgeable on the whole of it, and mostly my objections are based on loyalty to you and Joel, and the constant never ending meandering of City screw ups in communicating to the public about this.

        But, the more I read the crappier it is.
        My mom worked at Crestline, and knew or remembered the word Penta.

    2. When taken in sequence… the action happened and Mayor Mielke was notified and the digging stopped, dust abatement will be used, today it is called rain!

      Mielke promised and is living up to the promise… then he pointed out… ““A reminder, again, we have not been directed by any regulatory agencies to do any soil mitigation…
      and the Department of Health Services has determined that there are no health risks related to the soils and test results.”

      But he will keep his word… this all started many years ago… “Penta was used in manufacturing at the site from 1946 to 1986. The current owner, Wauleco, was sued in 2008 by 144 people who claimed toxicity in the soil and groundwater caused cancer and other health problems.”

      Wausau has been cleaning up hazardous sites and will continue to do so…

Comments are closed.