By Shereen Siewert

A contractor working on the second phase of the Thomas Street Project has been fined for failing to maintain erosion control best management practices during the project, according to emails obtained by Citizens for a Clean Wausau and shared with Wausau Pilot and Review.

A volunteer with CCW spotted potential discharge into the Wisconsin River, documented it through photos and videos, and then reported the information and documentation to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the City of Wausau in June. Wausau Pilot and Review first reported on the discovery on June 20.

In the images, a pool of muck is visible directly below the discharge.

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

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 dewatering 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 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 a single day. The city inspector informed the crews that this type of discharge could not occur again. But in a June 27, 2019, press release update, the City clarified that there was only one incident that occurred — that which was noted on and reported by citizens — not two as stated in the initial press release.

After being notified of the incident, DNR personnel asked that the dewatering be eliminated immediately, and noted that a “direct discharge to the river with no best management practices implemented to control sediment are generally not allowed,” according to a DNR email.

The department’s stormwater program requested a citation on Aug. 8 and was finalized Aug. 30. The contractor cited and fined was Thorp-based Haas Sons, Inc. Citations and court costs totaled $1,159.50.

Members of CCW applauded the action by the DNR and say they are continuing to monitor the city’s southwest side for potential environmental infractions and issues.

““It is always encouraging to see standards and regulations enforced,” the group said, in a prepared statement. “Our group will continue to serve the community and its environment.”