Public Works Director Eric Lindman speaks Sept. 3 to the Wausau Parks and Recreation Committee.

By Shereen Siewert

City officials in Wausau will be required to clean up environmental contamination detected in the vicinity of the former railroad corridor along River Street in Wausau, according to state documents.

The Department of Natural Resources on Nov. 21 sent a letter to Public Works Director Eric Lindman notifying him of the reported contamination, which the DNR learned about on Oct. 31. The environmental pollution was detected in an area at 132 River Street, which sits along the railroad tracks at the top of Riverside Park.

Map view of 132 River St., Wausau

The DNR’s letter identifies Wausau as the responsible party for the “discharge of a hazardous substance or other environmental pollution” at the property, but does not say specifically what the pollution consists of or why the city is responsible. And so far, there has been no mention of the Nov. 21 letter in city meeting packets.

In October, Lindman told city leaders that Wausau could be required to undergo an aerial disposition study related to past burning at the city’s water treatment site, but it is not yet clear if the two issues are connected.

Neither Lindman nor Mayor Robert Mielke have yet responded to a request for comment for this story.

Lindman said during the October meeting that he had 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 Lindman referred to is tied to an incinerator that operated on the site from the 1930s until approximately the 1960s to burn solid waste, Lindman said.

The DNR’s Nov. 21 letter directs Wausau to initiate an investigation and cleanup of the site and recommends the city hire a qualified environmental consultant to aid in the process. Wausau is required to appropriately scope out the investigation and submit a work plan by Monday, Jan. 20. Prior to and during the site administration, the city is required to evaluate whether any interim actions are necessary to contain or stabilize a hazardous substance discharge or environmental pollution. Any interim actions must be documented.

After a work plan is submitted, a site investigation must be launched within 60 or 90 days, depending on whether a fee-based departmental review of the work plan is submitted.

After laboratory data is submitted, state law requires the city to submit a site investigation report. If soil contamination exists, the city is required to identify the current land use and zoning and submit a remedial action option report.

Wausau will also be required to submit semi-annual site progress reports to the DNR until the state grants a case closure.

See the full letter, below.