Docs: Inconsistent DNR Enforcement of Dioxin Standards in Wausau
- January 6, 2020
This year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) sent the City of Wausau a Responsible Party letter to investigate and cleanup soil with dioxin levels far lower than were found in Riverside Park years ago. Yet, to this day, no substantive action has been taken by the DNR or City in or by the park where the higher soil levels were found.
Later this afternoon, the Parks & Recreation Committee is meeting and Riverside Park soil testing is on the agenda.
Importantly, a Media Advisory sent out on January 5 by the committee chair Patrick Peckham to news outlets makes no mention that multiple historical soil samples in and by Riverside Park exceeded state soil standards.
By now, the committee and city council should be aware that state soil standards are part of Wisconsin Chapter NR 720 Administrative Code, which defines acceptable or unacceptable lifetime cancer risks posed by direct contact with contaminated soil. That risk is described in NR 720.12 Procedures for determining residual contaminant levels based on protection of human health from direct contact with contaminated soil.
State Soil Cleanup Standards can be found on the Wisconsin State Legislature Website:
A site investigation report from October 2019 showed dioxin and furan exceedances in the former rail corridor. In November 2019, the DNR sent the City of Wausau a Responsible Party letter to investigate and cleanup the area of the soil exceedances. The highest dioxin TEQ level in that area was 62 ng/kg.
Yet in 2006 samples were taken by and in Riverside Park, and those soil dioxin TEQ results showed levels of 105 ng/kg and 87 ng/kg. Despite the TEQ levels being roughly 40% higher than the 2019 results for which the City received a responsible party letter, no substantive action was ever taken by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the City of Wausau to investigate and remediate this area of dioxin exceedances.
The DNR itself confirmed dioxin and furan soil exceedances in a March 14, 2018 and March 23, 2018 email, including an attachment showing exceedances of state standards. Oddly, nearly two years after the department confirmed the exceedances, which were much higher than this year’s results, no Responsible Party letter was ever sent out.