Wauleco soil testing finds elevated levels of dioxins in parts of Riverside Park neighborhood

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) A soil sample report, generated by Wauleco at the request of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, finds there are still areas in Wausau’s Riverside Park area that have elevated levels of dioxins.

Wauleco released the full report on its findings Tuesday afternoon.

The report says 36 soil samples were taken as part of a survey.

Ten were chosen by Wauleco, with the DNR’s approval, based on wind dispersal analysis for Wauleco.

Wauleco’s report says it also chose 25 other sample locations, with the DNR’s approval, where they believed dioxins may exist based on other potential burning sources. They identified the City of Wausau’s incinerator, Marathon Rubber, railroad tracks, and vehicle traffic as potential sources.

The DNR also asked Wauleco to gather a sample on River Street, near the Wauleco location.

Wauleco’s report says the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional screening level for dioxin in soil is 4.8 ng/kg.

The report says of the 10 samples Wauleco and the DNR agreed on, based on their wind dispersal, two tested higher than the EPA’s level. Wauleco argues that they took samples in pairs, and if both parts of the pair did not have elevated levels, then Wauleco’s wind dispersal may not be responsible for the elevated levels. In both cases, only one part of the pair tested higher.

Of the 25 other samples Wauleco chose, based on other potential burning sources, 12 tested higher than the EPA’s level.

The location the DNR suggested Wauleco add to their list, also tested higher.

The report says the three highest levels of dioxins found in the soil all came from sample locations just North of Thomas Street, between the Wisconsin River and Emter Street. The report says the three test locations there showed dioxin levels of 62.5 ng/kg, 44 ng/kg and 22.2 ng/kg. It also notes there are railroad tracks in that vicinity.

The report also indicated levels between 10-20 ng/kg in alleys near the intersections of 8th Avenue and Bopf Street and 10th Avenue and Thomas Street, and on 3rd Avenue near West Street and Thomas Street.

In Wauleco’s findings about this report, they conclude “historic wood waste burning practices by the company did not generate contaminants that exceeded state standards.”

Citizens for a Clean Wausau have made a formal request to the city to complete their own testing in Riverside Park.

Back in March, a state toxicologist, Clara Jeong with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said dioxin exposure in the Riverside Park area of Wausau is unlikely to be harmful to people, in a letter sent to the Wausau Committee of the Whole.

Jeong analyzed soil tests in May, 2018 and found no significant health risk for residents or park users. In March, she recommended further testing to better understand the potential health impact in the community.