UPDATE: Thomas St. project to move forward, despite new test res - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Thomas St. project to move forward, despite new test results

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -

Design plans for Thomas Street construction in Wausau moved forward Thursday night. This comes just days after independent soil testing showed elevated levels of dioxins.

The Wausau capital improvements and street maintenance committee met to discuss the revised plans along with the soil testing.

Roughly half a dozen people voiced their concerns on the testing at the meeting, saying they want more to be done.

"All of theses chemicals are subject to wind dispersal, to people digging gardens, to people landscaping," said Wausau resident Judith Miller. "So I would urge you and I would hope that there would be further testing conducted in this area."

The DNR has said they believe it's safe for the city to move forward. At the meeting, city officials said they'll follow DNR recommendations.

"We will continue to work with the DNR," said Eric Lindman, the public works director for Wausau. "If they elect to have us do additional testing we'll do additional testing. If they elect to have Waleko do additional testing they will do it. But we have to continue working through the process."

Alderperson Lisa Rasmussen also said that moving forward was the best step to take.

"The solution to getting rid of whatever is toxic in the project zone is to complete the project and remove the affected top soils and either repave or replace them with clean fill dirt," said Rasmussen.

Following discussions on the soil test results, the committee voted to move along with a 60 percent design plan for construction.

It calls for a center turning lane instead of a raised median, which allows some houses to the north of Thomas Street to stay, should homeowners choose.

The plan goes to city council Feb. 27.

Should it pass, city officials expect realtor negotiations with homeowners to begin in March.

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Wausau city leaders said construction of Thomas Street will move forward, despite increased levels of the chemical dioxin in soil, according to a press release.

The independent group Citizens for an Environmentally Safe Thomas Street Neighborhood conducted testing with Sand Creek Consultants after concerns the city did not test the surface soil. The city conducted a $24,000 test last summer and said the results revealed no excessive amounts of chemicals in the soil. In those tests, soil from the one to three foot and the nine to twelve foot range were tested.

The citizens' group tested the surface soil, which returned high levels of dioxin, but according to city leaders that chemical can be formed in a number of different ways, including vehicle exhaust.

The city consulted the Department of Natural Resources, which said the construction can still be managed as it's determined if further testing is needed. 

Residents have been asking for further testing for years, over concerns about elevated levels of pentachlorophenol, or penta for short. A lawsuit filed in 2008 claims a former company, that used chemicals to treat raw wood, led to contaminated soil in the area. The plaintiffs said the exposure led to cancer and other medical issues. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount of money.

The 60 percent design plan for Phase II of the Thomas Street project is on the agenda for the Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee Thursday night. That meeting is set to start at 5:30 p.m.

The first phase of the project, from 17th Ave. to 3rd Ave. was completed in November.

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