Damakant Jayshi

The Wausau Water Works Commission will hold negotiations with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc., on PFAS treatment and its removal from the city’s drinking water system.

The five-member commission, headed by Mayor Katie Rosenberg, made the decision after a closed session of their special meeting on Thursday. After the decision to hold negotiations with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions Inc. was announced, Mayor Rosenberg thanked all the firms who made the presentations last week on PFAS removal from drinking water.

“We really had a good discussion about everything,” Rosenberg said. “You have given us a wide range of things to discuss. But we are excited to move forward.”

On April 6, representatives from six consulting firms – CDM Smith, Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions Inc., Shannon & Wilson, Tetra Tech, Geosyntec Solutions and AECOM – each presented proposals detailing how they would work with the city to treat and remove PFAS.

The city conducted voluntary testing of all municipal drinking water supply wells for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and detected the chemicals at levels ranging from 23 to 48 parts per trillion (ppt). The levels exceed the proposed Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) future drinking water standard of 20 ppt, a level based on recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). All Wausau wells were above DHS recommendations, prompting the city to provide bottled water and filter pitchers to residents. Though the DNR does not currently set a drinking water standard, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to set limits as early as this fall of 20 ppt or below.

After the presentation on April 6, the commission directed the Department of Public Works to develop metrics for the selection criteria. A memo from DPW Director Eric Lindman to the commission states that staff worked to identify and possibly “hire a consulting firm (Consultant) whose expertise in the field of PFAS will complement the Engineers’ expertise. The RFQ (request for quotation) defined the Engineers as Donohue (& Associates) and Becher Hoppe.” 

The city has already hired Donohue & Associates and Becher Hoppe for a pilot study to suggest options on PFAS removal. Wausau Water Commissioner Joe Gehin, who works for Becher Hoppe, last week suggested that staff consult with Donohue and his own firm on the matter.

But unclear are the reasons these specific two firms with no experience in PFAS removal were hired when the commission also wanted to hire a firm with PFAS expertise. For the pilot study, the Wausau Water Works Commission approved $150,000 as well as a “task order of $30,000.”

The April 13 memo said DPW and Donohue reviewed the qualifications of the six consulting firms. No timeline for the discussions with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions Inc. was mentioned at the Thursday’s meeting.