Hello:

Wausau, WIWelcome to the Wauleco website. The fact that you are here probably means you are looking for additional information on the environmental clean-up efforts at our property at 125. E. Rosecrans in Wausau. We understand and want to be a reliable, informative resource for you.

Now, our goal here is not to provide a slanted perspective, or to dispute news articles you may have read. We simply hope to offer clarity through documented facts.

We recognize the immeasurable value our natural resources—our soil, our waters, our trees and wildlife—bring to this community. The waters and woods of central Wisconsin existed long before we did, and collectively, we need to act as stewards and caretakers. That’s why, dating back to 1984, we’ve been working diligently on the cleanup of the property. We’ve worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) every step of the way, as well as the City of Wausau, investing tens of millions of dollars into the project. Deploying effective cleanup technologies, much of the contaminates have been recovered and removed from the property but more work remains to be done. Our cleanup efforts will continue until we can return the site to a place of purpose and benefit to the community. 

On this website, you’ll find relevant public documents pertaining to the work we have done with industry-leading environmental experts the past three decades. We’ve also created an event timeline, and an FAQ section, where you may find the answers you are looking for. In addition, you can find our latest news release on testing results here, and the corresponding report here.

We thank you for your interest, and your sincere dedication to the well-being of the Wausau community. We’re right there with you.

Timeline

Because the relevant history of the Wauleco property stretches back to the 1940s, we’ve created the following timeline to clarify key moments in time. As you’ll see, since the 1980s, we have worked closely with the WDNR to actively facilitate cleanup efforts.

The early years

  • 1943

    George Silbernagle & Sons starts the initial window manufacturing operations on the Cleveland Avenue property now owned by Wauleco. Previously, the property was home to Wausau Novelty Company, a manufacturer of furniture novelties.
  • 1944

    The window manufacturing process at the plant starts using Pentachlorophenol (PCP) as a wood preservative.  At the time, PCP was one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States,  registered with the federal government and sold to the public. At George Silbernagle & Sons, the PCP was applied as a surface coating to the windows in a variety of processes, mostly by dipping and spraying. The wood was never “pressure treated.”
  • 1961

    George Silbernagle & Sons is purchased by Harris Brothers.
  • 1975

    Harris Brothers changes its name to Harris-Crestline Corporation.

New ownership

  • 1981

    The Sentry Corporation purchases Harris-Crestline Corporation. Harris-Crestline Corporation is merged into another entity and the surviving corporation is re-named SNE Corporation, which continues to operate as a window manufacturing company at the site.
  • 1984

    The Environmental Protection Agency starts to increase regulation of the purchase and sale of PCP.  Upon learning of EPA’s efforts to reclassify PCP and potentially ban the use of its application indoors, SNE Corporation began to investigate its usage of PCP.  It also altered its processes in an effort to eliminate the potential release of PCP while it evaluated potential alternatives.
  • 1984–1985

    SNE Corporation works with the WDNR on an investigation and remediation plan.
  • 1986

    SNE Corporation discontinues the use of PCP in its window manufacturing operations.
  • 1987

    SNE Corporation sells some of its assets to another entity interested in continuing the window manufacturing business on site. The purchaser leases the property, which is retained by SNE Corporation.  Following the sale, SNE Corporation changes its name to Wauleco (a derivation of Wausau Leasing Company).  The purchaser continues window manufacturing operations on the site under the name SNE Enterprises.
  • 1990

    SNE Enterprises discontinues window manufacturing operations at the site.
  • 1992

    Wauleco commences demolition of all buildings on site, except those remaining today, which are in existence to house remediation equipment.  Wauleco installs and operates a groundwater treatment plant.
  • 1992–present

    Wauleco continues remediation of the property.

Our remediation efforts

More on Wauleco’s remediation efforts

Wauleco has been working closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to investigate and clean up the site since the mid-1980s. Over that time, Wauleco has collected nearly 500 soil samples from about 150 soil borings at the site, drilled and sampled more than 70 groundwater monitoring wells, and installed more than 30 groundwater extraction wells to remove groundwater from beneath the site and clean it up.

Though more work remains to be done, the remediation system Wauleco installed at the site has been very successful at recovering contamination.

  • To date, more than 60,000 lbs. of the released PCP has been recovered and safely removed.
  • This system has pumped and treated nearly 450 million gallons of water since it was started in full scale in 1991.
  • More than 99 percent of the PCP in the groundwater is removed before the treated groundwater is discharged to the City of Wausau’s treatment plant for further treatment.

Wauleco prepares frequent remediation system performance reports for WDNR. We also:

  • Monitor the remedial system continuously and even have an on-site laboratory for our own quality control.
  • Prepare annual remediation system performance reports for WDNR. The latest one can be accessed here.
  • Collect groundwater samples from site monitoring wells on a semi-annual basis, and measure groundwater elevations and promptly report the results to WDNR. The most recent quarterly report can be found here.

We continue to work closely with WDNR, and explore new remediation technologies as we evaluate long-term goals for the site. We are committed to remediating the site and will keep WDNR informed every step of the way. Please refer to the calendar of activities so you too are well informed of what is going on at the site.

Here's a closer look at the treatment system process flow.

Treatment system
  1. Extraction Well – groundwater is pumped by underground pumps to on-site treatment system
  2. Holding Tank – incoming groundwater is collected in this tank (i.e., influent)
  3. Aeration Tank – oxygen is added in this tank
  4. Biological Fluidized Bed – PCP dissolved in groundwater is reduced/treated biologically here
  5. Fixed Film Reactor – PCP dissolved in groundwater is further reduced/treated biologically here
  6. GAC Polishing – water is further treated prior to discharge via a combination of eight granular activated carbon polishing tanks
  7. Effluent to Sanitary Sewer – treated water (i.e., effluent) is discharged to Wausau wastewater treatment plant, with 99% of the PCP removed.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is PCP?

    Pentachlorophenol (PCP) is a man-made chemical which was once one of the most widely used pesticides in the country.  PCP was used as a pesticide and wood preservative.  PCP is still in use today, but is now a “restricted-use” pesticide that may only be applied by licensed applicators approved by the State.  It is no longer available for sale to or use by the general public.

  • Is PCP still around?

    PCP is still used today as an industrial wood preservative in things such as utility poles, railroad ties, and wharf pilings. 

  • How was PCP used at the Wauleco site?

    PCP was contained within a commercially available wood treatment product that was used at the Wauleco facility.  It was known as Woodtox and was manufactured by Koppers Corporation.  The Woodtox product contained about 5% PCP.  The PCP-containing Woodtox material was surface-applied to the wood window products.

  • Why is the cleanup taking so long?

    Because the PCP is deep beneath the ground (up to 30 feet deep), remedial treatment options for the site are limited.  It has been difficult to recover this material from this deep in the ground, but Wauleco has been successful in recovering a lot of it—and those efforts continue.  Wauleco continues to evaluate new technologies as they become available, in an effort to remove the remaining product more efficiently.

  • What’s in those small, white houses on the property?

    The white houses or small sheds you can see on the site are referred to as pump houses. They provide protection from the weather for on-site recovery wells that operate as part of our groundwater recovery and treatment system. Those wells pump water out of the ground some 25 or more feet below the surface, which is then piped to our treatment system. Without those sheds, the electrical controls on the well pumps would be exposed to the elements and may cause operational issues.

  • But I heard PCP is coming into the City’s sewer system?  What’s being done about that and can I be exposed that way?

    A single, deeper sanitary sewer line (called an interceptor sewer) has been shown to have PCP in the sewage being transported to the City’s treatment plant for treatment. This is not the water that is supplied by the City for drinking or other uses. It does appear that this City sewer line has cracks; however, Wauleco is working closely with the City to help identify where there may be openings in that City sewer line that could let in some of the PCP dissolved in groundwater. We’re hopeful this can be remedied in the near future.

  • What about vapors from the PCP?  Can this be a concern?

    Not at this site. We have investigated whether vapors could be a concern here and our investigation has consistently concluded that the soils in the area of our site have enough oxygen present that vapor build-up is not a concern, and the DNR agrees with us. In addition, it is important to point out that PCP is not a volatile chemical and will not move as a vapor. We recently assessed this again and a report of our conclusions and DNR’s agreement is available here.

  • I have heard a lot of talk lately about dioxins, what are they?

    The term “dioxins” generally refers to a certain group of chemicals created inadvertently as a by-product of a number of human activities.  These compounds can be created during the course of chemical manufacturing, incomplete combustion, vehicle exhaust, backyard burning, forest fires, and volcanic eruptions.  In chemistry, these materials are referred to as chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs) and chlorinated dibenzofurans (CDFs).

  • Are there dioxins in the Thomas Street neighborhood?

    Yes. Dioxins are ubiquitous in an urban environment and there are many potential sources of dioxin-producing activities in the neighborhood. Expert toxicologists from the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services studied the sampling results to date and have concluded that there is no apparent health hazard for people using Riverside Park and residents living in the Thomas Street neighborhood. They have also recommended that further sampling be conducted to confirm their conclusions.

  • Why is WDNR requiring Wauleco to look into dioxins?

    Waste wood was previously burned at the Wauleco site to provide heat and steam. Because wood burning can be a source of dioxins, WDNR asked Wauleco to look into this and perform additional sampling. WDNR has made the same request of three other entities in the neighborhood that also operated incinerators or smokestacks. Wauleco conducted the sampling in August 2019 and recently reported the data results to WDNR and the City of Wausau. That report can be found here. The data shows that none of the samples collected from what would most likely have come from Wauleco’s historic wood burning exceeded state standards. Also, all results were below the levels previously analyzed by state toxicologists, who have concluded that there is no apparent health hazard.

    Furthermore, on November 13, 2019, the expert toxicologists from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) shared an updated health risk assessment concerning dioxins in light of the Wauleco soil sampling results. Major conclusions from the report are the following:

    • WDHS concludes that there is no apparent public health hazard from exposure to dioxins in the area studied
    • Although dioxins were detected in some of the samples, the range of dioxin levels detected is similar to background dioxin levels commonly found in urban settings
    • In conducting its analysis, WDHS used very conservative assumptions; it indicates that “the calculated risk may be overestimated and may not represent the actual exposure”
    • Even using this conservative approach, WDHS concludes that exposure to dioxins in the area “is not expected to cause harm (does not cause an unacceptable increased risk of cancer)”

    The entire report can be downloaded here.

  • Am I exposed to dioxins?

    We are all exposed to dioxins. Over 90 percent of human exposure to dioxins comes through food, mainly animal products such as dairy products, meat, fish, and shellfish. Based on what we know currently, state toxicologists have concluded that the levels of dioxin they have studied on neighborhood soils are not an apparent public health hazard.

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