Public Works Director to City Attorney: Consultant will determine “IF” More Riverside Park Testing is Needed

Data Source:  Open Records Request, City of Wausau

Public records show that just two days after the 1/7/19 Parks & Recreation Committee unanimous vote for planning additional testing in Riverside Park, a department head conveyed to Wausau’s city attorney that the vote was about hiring an environmental consultant to determine “IF” additional testing would occur. However, just minutes prior to the vote at the 1/7/19 meeting, statements made about the intent and meaning of the motion by the council member who made it – Gary Gisselman – directly contradict Mr. Lindman’s assertion that the motion was passed so that a consultant would make the determination of “IF” more testing was needed. Additional statements, including at the 2/4/19 committee meeting, also contradict that assertion.

On 1/9/19 (a screen shot of the email below – gray highlight added), Mr. Lindman wrote city attorney, Anne Jacobson, and stated (emphasis added):

“The story Shereen wrote is incorrect, the committee did not approve any testing, they approved us to hire an environmental consultant to perform a review of the site and determine IF additional testing is needed.  Attached is the email I sent out [to] the committee on Tuesday with the proposed plan of action.”

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But public access video from 1/7/19 shows that Councilman Gisselman, the committee member who made the motion at hand, made it very clear to the committee what the motion’s intent and meaning was. Based on those statements, the motion was apparently made with the understanding that it was no longer a question about “if” more testing would occur, but what kind of testing it would be.

“Just so that the motion clearly understands that we’re beyond planning, we’re beyond thinking about if we should or shouldn’t do testing. I think we’re to the point of saying yes, we’re going to be doing testing, now we have to determine what kind of testing we’re going to do.” – Councilman Gary Gisselman when the motion is brought up, 1/7/19

At roughly 45 minutes and 45 seconds in the full video (link below), the final wording is read. It did indeed revolve around “planning,” but as discussed at multiple points in the meeting, it appears clear that the intent of the planning and Phase I study was to inform the process of what kind of testing would be done and how it would be done, not “if” it would be done or not.

The meeting minutes can be found here.

At the 2/4/19 Parks & Recreation committee, when discussing the minutes of the prior meeting, the chair, Councilman Patrick Peckham, wanted to “augment” the motion and amend the minutes. Mr. Gissleman spoke again to the intent of the motion and stated that he did not want it “tinkered with.” Councilman Tom Neal also gave his input:

“I think it needs to be clear that it seemed like there was consensus that testing was indeed wanted from the committee…” — Councilman Tom Neal speaking about the motion at the 2/4/19 committee meeting


Later in that meeting (video below), when asked about what would occur at the March 11 meeting, Mr. Peckham said that he expects that they will be looking at information and saying that an environmental consultant is needed “to decide where these borings are going to be done and what we’re going to be looking for.” That would seem to correspond with the intent of the motion which passed, as described by Mr. Gisselman at the 1/7/19 meeting.

However, what would not seem to be in line with the intent of the January motion was an email statement by Mr. Peckham to media outlets on 1/30/19 that one possible result of the March 11 meeting “would be a decision that the level of concern does not warrant further testing.”  This possible result does not seem to be explicitly mentioned by Mr. Peckham to committee members in the video of the 2/4/19 committee meeting.

(screen shot of email below — gray highlight added)

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The DNR and DHS will be attending the March 11 meeting to, presumably, provide input or comments.

Concerns were voiced in the past by Wausau residents that — prior to the tenure of the current DNR WAULECO site representative — the DNR had made inaccurate or false statements on the record about the neighborhood contamination. For example, in 2014, a DNR representative stood in front of the city council and stated that “the only sample results we have for dioxins are not on Thomas Street.” In another example, in 2008, a DNR representative told the Wausau Daily Herald, when discussing the WAULECO site’s contamination, “that the DNR has not found the chemical [pentachlorophenol] in the Wisconsin River.” Information acquired from the DNR and other sources since those statements were made suggests that neither of those statements were true.

Last week, local media reported that the public works director had omitted information received from the DNR in his April 20, 2018, memo to CISM and the mayor. A component of that memo was intended to summarize information that had been received from the DNR and other agencies, but it left out certain information that the DNR provided to Mr. Lindman via email on March 27, 2018. That omitted information showed that a state toxicologist, in a 2008 email to the DNR, had already recommended further testing adjacent to WAULECO.

A screen shot of that DNR email to Mr. Lindman, as well as the 2008 email from the state toxicologist, is embedded below (yellow highlights added). You can click the images below to enlarge them.


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email recommending further testing