Remediate contamination to meet housing need in Wausau

Image Source: Tom Kilian

“Because of its popularity as a murder weapon, thallium has gained notoriety as the ‘poisoner’s poison’ and ‘inheritance powder’ (alongside arsenic)” -Wikipedia.

Thallium was banned in the US in 1972. At 1300 Cleveland Street, in the most diverse and working class area in the the city of Wausau, it is all in the soil, along with some arsenic too.

This plot of land slopes down into a residential area which includes one family’s large vegetable garden.

This plot is supposed to be zoned as residential. Due to an honest mistake it is labelled industrial and the City wants to go with that instead of pursuing opportunities for housing. But it’s no mistake that working Wausonians are hurting for safe and reasonably priced housing. We’ll need over 400 new residences by 2025.

Other unmistakable facts of the state of our housing problem in Wausau include:

336 households are overcrowded

Substandard housing is more prevalent here than the county, state, and country.

31% of people live in unaffordable housing

42% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing

21% of homeowners spend more than 30% of their income on housing

68% of existing owner-occupied units are unaffordable to low income Wausonians

We need all the land we can get for affordable housing, and the land should be free from poisonous industrial waste such as thallium and arsenic.

In support of the poor, low income, and working people of Wausau, Wausau Poor People’s Campaign and Citizens for Clean Wausau request that the City Council provide safe environments in which working households can shelter and thrive.

Our request includes:

Remediate 1300 Cleveland soil to residential levels.

Don’t expand toxin- producing industry at this site or any other areas bordered by residential housing. Pursue legal actions to force the prior owner to live up to its previous commitment to clean up its act. Save it for safe homes.

Perform Phase 1 and Phase 2 soil testing of all residential areas surrounding industries. This should  include testing of areas downhill from an industrial site.

Proceed post-haste with the Housing Affordability and Security Task Force to address our dire housing needs significantly heightened by the pandemic.

It would be a deliberate and dishonest mistake for a City Council that courageously supported Guaranteed Basic Income to avoid taking every measure to address it’s peoples’ needs for safe affordable homes.

Remediate and populate.