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DNR could undergo investigation of Wausau water treatment site

in Investigations/News

By Shereen Siewert

Wausau could be required to undergo an aerial disposition study related to past burning at the city’s water treatment site, Public Works Director Eric Lindman told city leaders on Monday.

Lindman said he received verbal confirmation that the DNR is likely to require the same type of study that Sentry Insurance-owned Wauleco performed at the state’s request earlier this year. The DNR on Jan. 15 issued a request for information about past burning practices to Wauleco, Inc., which now owns the property at 125 E. Rosecrans St. in Wausau. The property was formerly occupied by window and door manufacturer Harris-Crestline, which in 1982 merged with SNE Corp. Sentry, in Stevens Point, is the parent company of Wauleco.

The expected request is tied to an incinerator that operated on the site from the 1930s until approximately the 1960s to burn solid waste, Lindman said. Depending on when the formal request is received, the city will have 60 to 90 days to comply. The results will determine whether the city will be required to do further testing to determine the environmental fitness of areas affected by aerial deposition of contaminants associated with waste burned at the facility.

Lindman’s disclosure came Mon. Oct. 7, just after members of the city’s parks and recreation committee gave unanimous, preliminary approval to a grassroots environmental group’s request to perform three tests at Riverside Park at no expense to the city. Citizens for a Clean Wausau proposes testing the area using Sand Creek Consultants, the same group that performed testing on Thomas Street last year.

But Mayor Rob Mielke and City Attorney Anne Jacobson told the committee the request must be approved by the full city council during their Oct. 22 meeting. Lindman strongly cautioned against any testing at this time because doing so is “not necessarily in the best interest of the city.”

“You have to understand there’s nothing that says there’s issues at Riverside Park,” Lindman said. “If there’s something that is found, that’s the city’s liability, that’s the reality and something the city will have to take on.”

Tom Kilian, a representative of CCW, pointed out recent litigation involving Sentry-owned Wauleco and urged city officials to act in the best interests of the community.

“Be brave and serve the people,” Kilian said. “This is not the time for lawyer and politician talk. We hope those levels are now below state standards. They weren’t before. We’re just asking, just get that done. I respectfully ask that tonight.”

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