Damakant Jayshi

Wausau will move ahead with environmental remediation plans for Riverside Park, likely submitting the plan to the state’s Department of Natural Resources by the end of August for review, officials said.

Samples taken from Riverside Park, on the city’s southwest side, showed a number of toxic compounds. The samples were sent to the DNR last month by REI, a local engineering firm that conducted the tests.

“Because we have not received feedback from the DNR on the sample results we are moving ahead with a remediation plan and anticipate this to be submitted to the DNR before the end of August,” Director of Public Works and Utilities, Eric Lindman, told Wausau Pilot & Review. “This is good news that we do not anticipate any additional required testing. Once the report is complete the City will pay a fee to the DNR and they will provide a formal written response for the record.” 

The DNR has had a look at the test results, state officials confirmed.

“The results have been preliminarily reviewed by the Department (of Natural Resources),” Matthew Thompson, Hydrogeologist Program Coordinator at the DNR official told Wausau Pilot & Review. “The City and REI should complete a report summarizing the data obtained to date, and submit that to the Department for formal review.” 

According to Lindman, REI has begun writing the report and is “researching the best remedial action options, which will be incorporated into the remediation plan to the DNR.” 

A City Council member who has been fighting for testing and cleanup around Riverside Park, including the greater Thomas Street neighborhood, welcomed the development with a caveat.

“It is encouraging to hear that the City and its consultants are beginning to research remediation options for the dioxin soil contamination in Riverside Park, but until the remediation recommendations and draft plan are available for review, it is impossible for me to provide an opinion on them,” said Tom Kilian, who represents Dist. 3 on the council. “I believe, particularly after all the years of municipal inaction, that the community will insist that the park remediation be thorough and effective, satisfying both regulatory expectations and longstanding community concerns. I am very eager to see the draft plan when it is complete and available.”

REI will develop a proposed cleanup plan in collaboration with engineers from the Public Works & Utilities department. City officials can propose either additional testing or a remediation plan once they synthesize their data, added Thompson.

Once the remediation measure is submitted by REI, the plan will be reviewed by the DNR, with approval expected by the fall. When that happens, the city council will be asked to approve funding for the plan and will seek proposals from contractors through a public bidding process. This will be done by winter and the cleanup work is expected to be completed by the spring of next year, Lindman said.

Residents around Riverside Park, including those living along the Thomas Street corridor, have long been asking for adequate testing to determine if the park is safe. Soil tests at the park last year, taken after months of debate, showed significant contamination in several areas.

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.