3m company facility wausau wisconsin 2024

New 3M Company Clean Air Act Violations in Wausau


Data posted on the EPA’s online enforcement and compliance tool, ECHO, shows that 3M Company in Wausau’s Thomas Street neighborhood received two new recent Notices of Violation for High Priority Clean Air Act Violations. The dates listed for the Notices of Violation are 3/29/24 and 5/2/24.

Per the EPA data, the violations relate to elements such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, and visible emissions.

The facility is “is the oldest, currently operating, manufacturing facility for 3M in the world” and sits in the middle of a densely populated residential neighborhood. In the 1930s, shortly after 3M began operations in the neighborhood, city officials stated that the company had not kept one of its promises and that environmental hazards from the plant were making neighborhood children sick. In 1937, Wausau Mayor George Borowitz stated that allowing the plant in the city of Wausau “was a serious mistake.”

This 3M Company Wausau facility has been under scrutiny for years for its repeated air violations — none of which have led to a fine from the State. In the past, former officials for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Department of Justice criticized the lack of fines for the air violations in Wausau and one of them referred to the situation as “unprecedented.”

The facility located in the residential neighborhood also has a serious history of soil and groundwater contamination, according to the Wisconsin DNR’s public-facing database of contaminated sites, BRRTS. Some of 3M’s petroleum contamination even migrated onto the adjacent city park located along the Wisconsin River.

The City of Wausau also “filed a lawsuit against 3M and two dozen other defendants over allegations that their products contaminated the municipal drinking water supply.”

No Appropriate Action Taken By the Wisconsin Attorney General, Despite Leveraging the Thomas Street Neighborhood’s Same Environmental Plight to Get Elected

Publicly available information reveals that fines for 3M’s repeated air violations in Wausau have not occurred under the last Wisconsin attorney general or the current Wisconsin attorney general.

Attorney General Brad Schimel’s justice department had come under heavy criticism for this inaction.

Current Attorney General Josh Kaul is also coming under heavy criticism for the same inaction, with some environmental advocates characterizing it as policy “hypocrisy” and a failure to make good on his articulated policy commitments related to polluters.

As can be noted from the screenshot of his past Facebook post in 2018, Attorney General Kaul used the 3M air violations issue and the Wausau neighborhood’s environmental plight to help get himself elected. In the Facebook post, he criticized Schimel for the no-fine 3M Wausau situation. Subsequently, he apparently followed an identical approach to his predecessor.



On May 2, 2024, a Citizens for a Clean Wausau member filed a records request with WDNR for records relating to 3M Company Wausau’s latest High Priority Clean Air Act Violations. Since the State of Wisconsin, including the DNR, continues to fail to post such violation-related records on a public-facing government website so that citizens can be meaningfully involved in environmental issues that impact their lives and health, Citizens for a Clean Wausau will post all records acquired on its website for citizens to review, as it has routinely done in the past.

Citizens for a Clean Wausau spokesperson, Tom Kilian, recently relayed his concerns in writing to EPA Region 5 Environmental Justice personnel that impacted EJ neighborhoods in Wisconsin are being priced out of public records requests to the DNR relating to High Priority Clean Air Act Violations, which is in direct contradiction to the department’s articulated commitment to Environmental Justice principles printed at the bottom of many of the DNR’s materials: “The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is committed to promoting diversity, fairness, equity and the principles of environmental justice.”