Wausau Pilot & Review

Photo credit: Collin Massad

Individuals, environmental groups and elected officials packed the room at the Midwest Environmental Summit in Wausau’s Jefferson Street Inn on Saturday. Attendees from Wausau to Madison to Door County came to listen to state and nationally renowned speakers and groups about a range of environmental issues, challenges and potential solutions.

Because Citizens for a Clean Wausau, the host of the event, received a grant to put together the regional summit, the public paid absolutely nothing to attend the day-long event and came out in droves. 

Some featured speakers at the event had actually made national and international headlines on pollution matters, and for likely the first time in Wausau history, a variety of prominent figures from environmental health science, medicine, law, and activism all spoke at the same Wausau event.

Speakers ranged from the toxicologist at Love Canal who recently served on an expert panel in East Palestine, Ohio, to one of the most well-known environmental activists in the Midwest whose Chicago group members participated in a near month-long hunger strike to fend off a major polluter.

Unlike recent “invite-only” or qualified-invite environmental events in Wausau, like the local PFAS conference a few weeks ago facilitated by Green Fire, Citizens for a Clean Wausau’s event welcomed all and anyone who was interested in attending, and did so while bringing in some of the biggest  environmental health figures in the Midwest and nation that have ever participated in a Wausau event.

In regard to the high attendance at the local Jefferson Street Inn event this weekend, founding CCW member Tom Kilian, stated, “While we obviously had hoped to see this type of engagement, we never anticipated that so many people would come – from both Wausau and around the state – and we attribute this high attendance to the quality of the presenters and the unique nature of the summit, bringing in a variety of high-profile environmental speakers in a way that has never been done before here.”

Kilian went on to say that he had received a lot of feedback from attendees during and after the event indicating that they felt there had rarely, if ever, been a local environmental event regarding contamination that focused on and included regular people to such a degree.

CCW spokesperson Terry Kilian. Photo: Collin Massad

“Impacted communities should not only have the opportunity, but the right, to participate in matters that affect their health and the environment in which they live,” he said.

“The fact that this event was so uniquely positive in that way shows both that groups of regular people like ours can indeed make a difference, but also that, overall, things need to change. Citizens need to be driving these processes moving forward, not corporate or government power.”