2023 Year in Review

Another Year of Historic Citizen-Driven Action and Research. Riverside Park Finally Remediated 17 Years After First Dioxin Soil Samples in 2006.

2023 was a special year. It not only marked the 5-year anniversary of Citizens for a Clean Wausau’s founding in 2018, but also encompassed major community progress on multiple critical local environmental fronts. A list of CCW’s 2023 news and research posts can be found on this page below our highlight commentary.

Citizens for a Clean Wausau dedicates its work this year to Teresa Mills of CHEJ, in order to honor our very close friend and ally. Without the inspiration and tutelage of Teresa, Citizens for a Clean Wausau would simply never have existed.

                  Riverside Park Remediation of Dioxin Soil Contamination                                  

Sign at Riverside Park

17 years after the first dioxin soil samples were taken by a culvert in Riverside Park, extensive excavation of contaminated soil has finally occurred this year.

By July 18, 2023, local media outlets reported that about 370 tons of contaminated soil had already been removed.

A few months earlier, DHS State Toxicologist, Dr. Jeremiah Yee, PhD, deemed that a portion of the park posed  an “unacceptable cancer risk” and recommended that signs be placed in relevant areas of the park to notify people of potential exposures to contaminated soil.

For years, Citizens for a Clean Wausau, along with many other neighborhood and community members, pushed for appropriate environmental testing and remediation in Riverside Park. In 2018, at the request of the group, prominent Harvard-trained toxicologist who served at Love Canal, Stephen Lester, assessed park dioxin levels on Wausau’s southwest side, and concluded that insufficient testing had occurred to define the extent of dioxin contamination in the neighborhood. A mini-documentary regarding the citizen fight to achieve sufficient testing and Stephen Lester’s letter can be found here.

Citizens for a Clean Wausau Hosts the 2023 Midwest Environmental Health Summit

Tony Wilkin Gibart of Midwest Environmental Advocates speaking at the summit

On June 3, 2023, environmental health experts, advocates, and activists converged in Wausau, Wisconsin for the Midwest Environmental Health Summit hosted by Citizens for a Clean Wausau.

The regional summit consisted of participating grassroots environmental groups from EPA Region 5 states. Prominent figures from different environment health realms, including environmental health science, activism, and law kicked off the the event.

The summit appeared to be one of the first of its kind in EPA Region 5 that brought together environmental health experts, advocates, and activists in this manner.

In addition to Citizens for a Clean Wausau from Wisconsin, participating grassroots groups included: Southeast Environmental Task Force (Illinois), Just Transition NWI (Indiana), Buckeye Environmental Network (Ohio), and Poor People’s Campaign (Wisconsin and Illinois). Event speakers included Olga Bautista, Dr. Beth Neary, MD, Tony Wilkin Gibart, and Stephen Lester.

The full event agenda can be found here.

Further Environmental Testing at 1300 Cleveland Avenue, a Portion of the Former Connor Forest Industries  Property                                                                                                                                           

1300 Cleveland Avenue, facing north with view of nearby 3M factory                                                

2023 saw a request from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for PFAS groundwater testing at 1300 Cleveland Avenue. Groundwater testing revealed elevated levels of PFAS concentrations in site groundwater in relation to DHS-recommended groundwater standards. The City of Wausau, which is the associated Responsible Party for the site, is now required to perform a groundwater investigation to define the extent and nature of the groundwater contamination.

For years, if not decades, multiple levels of government took little action to address longstanding community environmental concerns related to the former Connor Forest Industries property. In 2018, Citizens for a Clean Wausau brought forth reams of public records demonstrating potential residual contamination issues on the site.

The site has now undergone multiple rounds of environmental testing and will ultimately undergo comprehensive remediation under the oversight of the DNR.

Further Involvement from Citizens for a Clean Wausau on Advisory Committee for

the New Wisconsin Environmental Mapping Tool from DNR, DHS, DOA, and WEDC

A Citizens for a Clean Wausau member continued to serve on the 14-member statewide advisory committee for the new Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool (WEET) being developed by multiple state agencies.

According to Wisconsin DHS, WEET “is a comprehensive web-based environmental justice and health equity mapping tool that is being developed by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and three other state agencies.”

Early on, Citizens for a Clean Wausau advocated for including proximity to Environmental Repair Program (ERP) sites in the state-level tool, and it appears that this element will likely be included in the first version of the tool, which is anticipated to be released in the near future.

Alerting the General Public to the Elevated PFAS Levels in Water of Local 3M Greystone Plant

Wisconsin DNR Drinking Water System Portal                                                                                   

Citizens for a Clean Wausau was apparently the first organization to widely alert the general public of high PFAS concentrations at the 3M Greystone site in Central Wisconsin. On November 10, 2023, the publicly available data from a DNR portal was published on our website.

A member of Wisconsin’s Green Fire had initially mentioned the general matter to a Citizens for a Clean Wausau member in passing, but had not provided any data.

Ken Cook, President of well-known Environmental Working Group (EWG), highlighted Citizens for a Clean Wausau watchdog efforts on the issue on his personal Twitter (X) account, stating, “Fantastic watchdogging…”

The 3M Greystone PFAS levels were ultimately reported on in media outlets, from the Wausau Pilot & Review in November to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in December.