City of Oshkosh Completes Last Phase of Riverfront Brownfields Cleanup

In June 2017, the city of Oshkosh received the final Wisconsin DNR approval of the remediation of the former Mercury Marine facility on the Fox River. In 2006, the city acquired the closed facility from Mercury Marine with hopes to convert the property into a new and improved community asset. The city used EPA brownfields grants for assessment and cleanup work on the properties as well as state, city, and private funding.

Oshkosh Riverwalk

A new riverwalk provides additional community access to the waterfront.

This property housed industrial facilities since the mid-1800s. Past uses of the land include a lumber business, candle company, and a bulk fuel tank farm. The site was then owned by the Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Company who then sold it to Mercury Marine in the mid-1970s. A range of contamination types were identified at the site as well as several feet of waste fill across the entire property. Metals, petroleum contamination, and chlorinated compounds were identified in the soil and groundwater.

The city removed much of the contamination while using buildings and parking lots to serve as a cover over the residual contaminated soil. In addition, the cleanup included an innovative approach where they left one area of heavily contaminated soil under a newly created, city owned, small park. This park serves as a protective barrier, saves project funds and creates additional public green space. This park connects to a new public riverwalk and piers along the river. The city partnered with a private developer to build three high quality apartment buildings, two specifically for senior residents. The site went through the DNR’s Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program and received a Certificate of Completion in August 2017 which provides liability protections for current and future property owners.

Green Cleanups with Trees

Applications are due April 9 for the 2018 Wisconsin RPCs and DNR Great Lakes Basin Tree Planting Grant Program. The goal of the program is to increase tree planning in Wisconsin to mitigate the effects of the emerald ash borer and to help reduce runoff in urban communities. Phytoremediation efforts may be eligible.


All communities within the Wisconsin Great Lakes Basin are eligible, but this program will particularly target projects in communities:

  • Within emerald ash borer quarantines
  • Within watersheds with surface water quality concerns
  • On tribal lands
  • Within communities that are members of a Regional Planning Commission
  • Within areas of concern (AOCs) for beneficial use impairments
  • In Tree City USA communities

Just over $120,000 is available to help fund projects ranging in cost from $1,000 to $20,000.

Wisconsin Assessment Monies Program Assists Communities with Brownfields Assessment

Many communities in Wisconsin have properties with known or suspected contamination that could benefit from environmental assessment to help move those properties from underused to productive. The Wisconsin DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program may be able to help.

Through the Wisconsin Assessment Monies program – or WAM – the DNR provides professional environmental site assessments to local governments, tribes and to private entities in select circumstances to help them to turn properties around and ready them for new uses. Participation in the WAM program requires minimal effort by local governments. Because there is no financial match or project administration involved, the award is an attractive opportunity for communities.

Applications for WAM services are accepted on an ongoing basis. Properties eligible for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing.  Gas stations, dry cleaners and salvage yards are not eligible. Sites assisted by WAM are generally less than 10 acres and have petroleum or hazardous substance contamination that can be assessed for less than $35,000. 

Please call Tom Coogan, the WAM program administrator, at 608-267-7560 or email Tom to discuss eligibility requirements or for more information.



RR Program’s Brownfields Conference for Local Government Returns May 10 to Stevens Point

Registration is now open for the 2018 Brownfields Conference for Local Government: Revitalization Tools and Techniques – Getting to Groundbreaking, coming May 10 to the Stevens Point Holiday Inn Convention Center.

This day-long event will cover a variety of cleanup and redevelopment topics of interest to communities across the state, including:

  • Local government success stories and lessons learned
  • The real estate developer’s perspective
  • The DNR’s brownfields toolbox
  • Federal and state resources for brownfields redevelopment
  • Environmental consultant and community relationships

“The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment program is honored to once again host local government officials and non-profit representatives at this event,” said Christine Haag, Brownfields and Outreach Section Chief at the DNR. “We enjoy strong partnerships with many communities across the state. This conference is a chance for us to come together and share the collective knowledge and skills regarding the community’s role in environmental cleanups and the productive reuse of brownfields.”

Registration for the 2018 Brownfields Conference for Local Government is limited and reserved for government officials and non-profit representatives through April 15 at the rate of $35. The following day, registration increases to $50 and is open to all guests. (Please note: technical topics will not be discussed during this conference; Consultants’ Days events will return in the spring of 2019.)

To learn more about the conference and to stay up to date with the latest information, please visit the RR Program’s conference and training web page.


City of Manitowoc Receives EPA Brownfields Award

The cleanup and redevelopment of the former Mirro Aluminum factories in Manitowoc recently garnered the city an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields award during the recent National Brownfields Conference, held December 5-7 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Award recipients

Receiving the EPA award is Nicolas Sparacio from the city of Manitowoc. He is flanked by Michael Prager, RR Program Land Recycling Team Leader, Margaret Guerriero and Yolanda Bouchee-Cureton, both from the EPA.

The EPA recognized the city for its outstanding efforts to clean up and redevelop two former factories that the city was left with when the Mirro Aluminum Co. closed its manufacturing plants in Manitowoc in 2003. Through persistence and hard work, the city has been successful in transforming the former Mirro Plant No. 3 into loft apartments targeted towards the veteran community and artists. In addition, the city achieved a huge milestone by completing the demolition of the massive Mirro Plant No. 9 and preparing the land for development.

The Wisconsin DNR’s RR Program assisted with Manitowoc’s Mirro cleanups by providing both financial and technical assistance. A summary of the Mirro apartments project can be found in the Program’s 128a Mid-Year Report for 2015-2016.

To learn how RR staff can help with your community’s revitalization efforts, contact your regional Land Recycling team member and request a “Green Team” meeting.

DNR’s RR Program Part of February FET Event

Department of Natural Resources speakers are scheduled to be part of the line-up for the Federation of Environmental Technologists (FET) 2018 Brownfields Development Seminar, scheduled for February 27, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., at the Country Springs hotel in Pewaukee.

The day-long event will feature a number of discussions related to contaminated land remediation and the redevelopment of former brownfields, including DNR environmental considerations for new construction; legal strategies for property acquisition; a discussion regarding the real estate development process; and a discussion on the governance and policy making that makes for livable communities.

The seminar is open to both members and non-members alike. Continuing education credits will be available.

For the agenda and registration information, visit the FET webpage: Brownfields Development Seminar

Waterfront Brownfields Projects May Benefit from NFWF Grant

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), along with private and public partners, is accepting applications for the 2018 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program.

The Five Star and Urban Waters program will award approximately $2 million in modest sized grants nationwide. Local governments and non-profit organizations can apply for this funding that can be used to assist with restoration of urban waterfront areas.

Applications are due January 31, 2018.

All application materials must be submitted online through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.

Updates to Wisconsin Spill Law Help Promote Land Recycling

Last November, the Governor signed 2017 Act 70, which modified Wis. Stat. ch. 292 (Wisconsin’s “Spill Law”) to help encourage brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. The Act was based on recommendations made by the Brownfields Study Group in its 2015 report, Investing in Wisconsin.

Modifications to the Spill Law include:

  • Clarification that the off-site liability exemption applies if there is vapor intrusion impacting an off-site property (Wis. Stat. § 292.13(1m))
  • Changing the definition of “property” as it is used for Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE). The new definition is “…an area of real property that is included in an application to obtain an exemption under this section, made up of a legally identifiable parcel or legally identifiable contiguous parcels created in compliance with applicable laws.” (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(1)(c))
  • Specifying the process for changing the footprint for the VPLE “property” after an application has been submitted if the “property” is subdivided, combined with other properties or otherwise changed. (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(2)(at))

The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s role with brownfields redevelopment is not directly affected by many of the other provisions in the Act, such as changes to tax incremental districts (TID) requirements for environmental remediation; expansion of the property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing option to include brownfield revitalization projects; expanded options to address tax delinquent brownfields and other provisions.

Program staff will make necessary changes to VPLE documents and webpages and work with the program’s Land Recycling Team to identify other actions needed to implement the changes.

More information on the bill, including descriptions of the provisions in the Act, can be found in Senate Bill 173.

“All Aboard!” Spooner’s Historic Roundhouse Revival

Spooner Roundhouse

Contaminated soils from around the Roundhouse were excavated and hauled off site to the old Spooner Landfill. The Roundhouse area was then capped and seeded. This area will be used for a public space. Spooner will be renovating the Roundhouse as a public space.

The city of Spooner, located in northwestern Wisconsin, pop. 2,700, has a rich railroad heritage. The city’s origin and colorful history is rooted in the railroad expansion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Spooner was an important railroad center of the Chicago and North Western Railway for many years. A historic railway roundhouse, a surviving turntable, and other aspects of the original rail yard still exist. The Spooner roundhouse is one of the few remaining structures of its kind.

Several local and state organizations have collaborated for years on efforts to clean up environmental contamination and preserve this unique and historic landmark property. The land is in the “Museum District” which also includes the Railroad Memories Museum and the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum. The Roundhouse property includes one of the only working turntables in the state. The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad operates active tracks on the site.

Remediated dirt

The regulatory issues involved in this project were handled through a collaboration of the Wisconsin DNR’s R&R and Waste and Materials Management programs. The excavated soils were placed at the old Spooner Landfill and used as part of a recapping project. The contaminated soils remaining at the site were capped and seeded.

Many years of railroad activities and subsequent manufacturing uses led to concerns about possible environmental contamination on the property. Section 128(a) funding from the EPA contributed to several successful Green Team project meetings with the Wisconsin DNR, the city of Spooner, and other stakeholders. Section 128(a) funds also supported the Wisconsin DNR’s efforts to counsel the city on managing environmental liability and other communications with the city. Spooner further received Phase I ESA contractor services through the Wisconsin DNR’s Wisconsin Assessments Money (WAM) program, funded by the EPA ARC Assessment grants, prior to its acquisition of the roundhouse property.

Contaminated soils from around the roundhouse were excavated and disposed of at the old city landfill, as part of a recapping project. The roundhouse property was then capped and seeded. The property will be open to the public, and the city of Spooner is also renovating the roundhouse as a public space.

Roundhouse turntable

The Roundhouse property includes one of the only working turntables in the state.

The success of this northern Wisconsin cleanup site is highlighted in the recent year-end Report, a summary of the outcomes funded by a Section 128(a) grant from the US EPA made to the Wisconsin DNR’s Brownfields program. Previous 128(a) reports, including mid-year and year-end summaries going back to 2012, can be found on the DNR’s RR Program web page.


Annual Report Details Northern Wisconsin Cleanup

A vacant industrial lot in the heart of Ashland, just a few blocks from Lake Superior, is now poised for redevelopment with the help of two section 104(k) cleanup subgrants totaling $400,000 from Wisconsin’s revolving loan fund, known as Ready for Reuse.

The success of this northern Wisconsin cleanup site is highlighted in the recent year-end Report, a summary of the outcomes funded by a Section 128(a) Grant from the US EPA made to the Wisconsin DNR’s Brownfields program.

The former Roffers property was once the site of a railroad roundhouse in the late 1800s. At that time, the grounds were used for coal storage. Later, it became the site of the Ruth Manufacturing Company saw mill and lumber yard. In the 1950s, Roffers Construction operated on the site and did so until 2007. Additional buildings on the property also housed various businesses over the last century, including a flour mill, a grocery wholesaler warehouse, and the headquarters of a local general contractor.

These past uses brought widespread PAH contamination that was excavated and used to mitigate a subsidence issue at a closed city landfill through a cross-program effort at the Wisconsin DNR. This alternate disposal location gave the city an inexpensive option for bringing the landfill back into compliance while also providing a greener remedial alternative to the substantial transportation distance and cost of hauling the material to the nearest open landfill in this rural, remote area of the state.

Currently, the city is working with a promising development proposal for a mixed use, walkable residential and commercial space with integrated park and greenspace. By proposing a mix of single and multi-family dwellings with small footprints and affordable pricing adjacent to commercial incubator space, the development aims to appeal to new graduates of the local college.

Previous 128(a) reports, including mid-year and year-end summaries going back to 2012, can be found on the DNR’s RR Program web page.