Dear editor,

The Northcentral Chapter of the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign, along with other residents and alders, continue to call for urgent action by the city (of Wausau) to provide assistance in delivering clean water and filtering devices to minimize Wausonians’ intake of PFAS contaminated water, a serious situation that has now prompted a drinking water advisory. 

Below, in quotations, is the response we received from the Mayor (Katie Rosenberg) on March 7 in response to our offer to provide our assistance and again, urge prompt citywide action. Our reactions to her response are expressed in the bullet points that follow.

“I asked for a legal review of supplying filters.”

  • What legal aspect of this is the legal team pursuing, exactly?
  • Is the city legal team exploring the precedent of residents suing a city for supplying means to obtain purified water during a drinking water advisory, by use of a device that operates similarly to a commonplace Brita filter system (pitchers and dispensers)?
  • Are they also exploring the precedent of a city being sued for NOT providing an adequate supply of filtered water to its residents during a drinking water advisory?

“Additionally, The Neighbors’ Place has a delivery truck that they are using to deliver water, folks just need to tell them where to deliver.”

  • Please consider the possible magnitude of the need, especially for vulnerable and poor Wausonians. Fifty-one percent of Wausonians live at or below the ALICE threshold of poverty. That means, close to 20,000 community members experience challenges to obtaining water and filtering systems. Could one honestly think The Neighbors’ Place with a delivery truck , operating 9 hours out of the week, with volunteers, could meet the needs of even a fraction of these residents?
  • The city’s duty to provide safe water to its residents has not and should not ever require a request for such a basic need (with the exception to turn on the water when moving into a new private residence).
  • Vulnerable people need to be identified and their need for water assessed, then a coordinated plan established to satisfy their need. Start by reaching out to places of worship and social service agencies such as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Family Care (Lakeland, Inclusa), Community Care Partners, United Way and landlords. Develop an emergency  water task force to coordinate this effort. Every public service announcement by the city should include a number to call to obtain purified water and/or filtering options- a  Safe Water Hotline. 

“Thank you for the information. From a policy standpoint, folks should also be reaching out to their alders too. I’ve heard from three alders about this concept and they were not all supportive of it.”

  • Yes, alders should be on board. That said, the city must coordinate this effort now! Stop using “whack-a-mole” tactics of delay and deflection between the mayor, the alders and the Waterworks Commission. The Water Commission has “addressing immediate water needs” on their agenda and it doesn’t get addressed. Some on the commission state they thought the (City) Council was dealing with this. The Council has it on its agenda, then it gets removed… 
  • The funds to support this effort should be available through ARPA and other governmental response funding for health threats.
  • Bottom line is that we shouldn’t have to rely on a food pantry for these needs, and especially one that is already stressed as it is. This is a city issue and the city needs to take care of it, not dump the responsibility on to another entity, or delay any longer.

The Northcentral Chapter of the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign calls on Wausau residents to contact the mayor and Wausau City Council to act NOW to provide safe water and filtering options to ALL, especially the most vulnerable among us: (https://www.ci.wausau.wi.us/Departments/CityCouncil/Alderpersons.aspx).

You may also contact us (ncwippc@gmail.com) to deliver water and filtering devices until our limited supply is depleted. Please visit our Go Fund Me Campaign post to donate.(NorthcentralWIPPC Facebook page) .

We shouldn’t have to ask for safe water. 

Britnie Remer 

Bruce Grau

Wausau

Northcentral Chapter of the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.