By Shereen Siewert

Members of Wausau’s Parks and Recreation Committee on Monday unanimously approved five soil tests in Riverside Park, incorporating several suggestions from a grassroots environmental group into the testing plan.

Citizens for a Clean Wausau called the decision a “victory” for the community, one the group has been fighting for for more than two years.

A Facebook post on the group’s page reads:

“(The Parks and Recreation Committee) heard us out on our rationale and then incorporated many of our requests into the testing plan, including a soil sample near the culvert area where the highest level of dioxins were found in the neighborhood soil. WAULECO took 36 samples in the area last year and not one of them was higher than the level found in the Riverside Park culvert area. We thank the committee for hearing us out and doing the right thing today.”

The committee initially planned four tests, independent of a state-mandated work plan from the Department of Natural Resources.

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

The DNR’s letter identifies Wausau as the responsible party for the “discharge of a hazardous substance or other environmental pollution” at the property.

Tom Kilian, a Citizens for a Clean Wausau spokesman, addressed the testing plan at length with the committee on Monday. Kilian, who is also running for city council, requested a fifth test to check for contamination below a drainage culvert at the south end of the park.

Each test will cost about $1,500, officials said Monday. The city has already budgeted for four tests.

Lindman told the group that testing would likely begin in April as weather conditions allow, with results expected in May.

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

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