Wausau Parks and Recreation Committee votes ‘no’ to testing the Wisconsin River

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 8:52 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - By a four to one vote, the Wausau Parks and Recreation Committee voted to not move forward with testing on the Wisconsin River.

“I would like to see a more thorough assessment of not only surface water but also sediments,” Tom Kilian, who represents Wausau’s 3rd district, said.

Last month, the committee voted to move forward with testing the sediment at the bottom of the river. But, they found out a few days later that the DNR controls the river, and the DNR would not allow a sample of that sediment.

“We would not be allowed to disturb the river bottom and we shouldn’t even consider that,” Committee chair Patrick Peckham said.

That means only the surface water can be tested, and dissenting members say that’s not enough.

“One isolated testing event of the surface water will really not tell us much of anything,” Kilian said.

The contaminant concern is the discharge from the Wauleco plant along the river. Peckham says that he cares about knowing what the quality of the river water is.

“If you voted ‘no’ today, you do not want to know what’s in the water. You don’t want those test results. And I want those test results,” Peckham explained.

The quality of the Wisconsin River is believed to be safe by much of the Parks and Recreation Committee. But, no testing has been done on its quality since 1996.

Peckham says that needs to change.

“We can say right now that we think it’s okay to recreate in that water. But, we don’t know it,” Peckham explained in the meeting.

For many of the dissenting members like Kilian, it wasn’t that they don’t want the water tested. They simply want more thorough testing done.

“The surface water testing is relatively insignificant compared to sediment testing. That would be my desire,” Kilian said.

Initially, Kilian moved to table the motion to explore whether or not they could work with the DNR to sample the sediment. But eventually, he repealed that motion and voted nay.

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