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City addresses river discharge issue after citizen complaint

in Breaking News/News

By Shereen Siewert

City officials are responding to a report of a hose discharging dewatering liquid directly in the Wisconsin River from an excavated area in the Thomas Street project zone, one week after a citizen brought the issue to their attention.

Images captured June 18, 2019 along Thomas Street showing drainage into the Wisconsin River from the construction zone. Image courtesy of Citizens for a Clean Wausau

Wausau Pilot and Review first reported on the discovery on June 20.

In a released statement Public Works Director Eric Lindman said the images, captured by a member of Citizens for a Clean Wausau, document discharge from the project area to the Wisconsin River that happened for two days last week. A contractor was removing ponded rain water from a low area along the street, pumping the water directly into the river, Lindman said.

In the images, a pool of muck can be seen directly below the discharge.

Emails obtained by Wausau Pilot and Review show city officials were unaware of the improper discharge until the images, including photos and videos, were brought to their attention. The discovery prompted a directive to crews to cease all dewatering at the construction site and provide an explanation of how long the dumping was occurring.

The DNR also requested confirmation that no additional dewatering into the river was occurring.

City officials initially responded by saying that a crew member stretched out a hose Monday and placed it under a fence over the wall while pumping out a low spot in the street. The problem, officials said initially, was immediately corrected and lasted for two hours or less and was isolated to Monday. The city inspector informed the crews that this type of discharge could not occur again.

But Lindman said another crew member working at the site extended the discharge hose to the river again on Tuesday. The correct action, when removing pond water after rain events, is to pump the water off the street and onto a vacant lot where the water is contained, infiltrated into the ground, allowing the sediment to remain on the surface.

“Last week one of the contractor’s crew members ran the discharge hose directly to the river,” Lindman said. “This first happened on Monday and our inspector corrected the issue and spoke with the foreman. On Tuesday another crew member, without our knowledge, extended the discharge hose to the river; this was brought to our attention by a resident in the area. The discharge was stopped and the City again notified the contractor of the issue and also the City made contact with the DNR related to these two incidents.

Lindman said the city’s inspector addressed the stormwater discharge with the contractor and the entire crew, notifying them they are fully responsible for proper stormwater management during construction and that any direct discharge is not in compliance with the storm water management plan or best management practices. The inspector also informed the contractor that the DNR has been notified of both the incidents, he said.

“The City will continue to remain diligent and compliant with our inspection practices and make sure the contractor follows the storm water management plan established for the project,” Lindman said.

Video and images courtesy of Citizens for a Clean Wausau

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