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Natural Resources Board To Consider Proposed Rules For PFAS Standards In Water

The Natural Resources Board (NRB) will consider the adoption of proposed standards for PFAS in drinking water, surface water and groundwater at their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Members of the public are invited to share their opinion about these proposed rules by either submitting written comments or speaking at the NRB meeting. All written comments and requests to testify at the meeting must be received by the Board Liaison by 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 16.

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam. These legacy contaminants have made their way into the environment in a variety of ways, including spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants, and use of certain types of firefighting foams.

The NRB sets policy for the DNR and has the authority to approve or reject these rule proposals. Rules that do not receive approval from NRB are no longer considered for adoption. If approved by the NRB, proposed rules are sent to the Governor and State Legislature for final approval and promulgation into Administrative Code. The NRB approval of the statement of scope launched the rulemaking process in October 2019.

Visit the Wisconsin DNR website to learn more about the Natural Resources Board and PFAS.

Brownfields Fundamentals: Cleanup Collaboration Leverages Funding

The benefits of cleaning up and redeveloping brownfield properties are significant. Returning underused and unsightly commercial and industrial properties back to productive use protects public health and promotes community vitality.

State and federal financial assistance for brownfield revitalization is available in many forms for local governments. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can help your community put all the pieces together, address environmental contamination and move these projects forward.

Gather Your Team

Once you identify one or more brownfield properties in your community that will likely sit empty for years without local government involvement, contact the DNR to request a Green Team meeting with brownfield specialists. The DNR staff can help your community in many ways, including:

  • Identifying property acquisition methods that give liability exemptions to local governments;
  • Managing liability concerns throughout the cleanup process;
  • Understanding the process of assessing, investigating and cleaning up brownfield properties; and
  • Identifying and explaining financial assistance options.

In addition to bringing the right people to the project conversation, a Green Team meeting will help your community understand how to get started and identify potential funding sources that work well together. Local governments can request as many Green Team meetings as needed to fully understand the technical cleanup path to site closure, and an adjacent funding strategy. The DNR understands that brownfield properties are a burden for local governments and wants to help repurpose these properties.

Assess Brownfield Properties With DNR Contractor Service Grants

Environmental assessment, performed by qualified private sector environmental professionals, is typically the first phase of the brownfield property remediation and reuse process. Financial assistance programs that are frequently paired are the Wisconsin Assessment Monies program (WAM), managed by the DNR, and the Site Assessment Grant (SAG) program, offered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

WAM is a contractor services award program that funds Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments, up to $35,000. Limited site investigation work may also be funded at some properties. SAG funds environmental assessment and demolition activities.

When applications from local governments are timed right, funding sources can combine to provide broad coverage of environmental assessment needs. The DNR’s WAM award disbursements can also be used to meet WEDC’s SAG financial match requirements.

Clean Up Brownfield Properties With State Loans And Grants

Following site assessment and investigation activities at a property, cleanup work may be needed. With a good plan in place and consistent communication with the DNR, contamination cleanup funding sources can be secured by local governments and lined up to keep the work progressing without delay.

The DNR’s Ready for Reuse revolving loan fund program provides 0% interest-free loan funding for environmental remediation activities. In some situations, partial loan forgiveness is also possible.

The Brownfields Grant Program offered by WEDC can fund site investigation activities, remediation work and subsequent environmental monitoring.

Like the assessment funding programs, the DNR’s Ready for Reuse loans and WEDC’s Brownfields Grants complement each other to provide broad coverage of cleanup needs. They help keep remedial work progressing toward site closure and, when coordinated, can be leveraged to cover match requirements, which minimizes out of pocket expenses for local governments.

Cleaning up and redeveloping a brownfield property takes time, but with Green Team help from the DNR and the support of state financial partners, a successful redevelopment is possible. Many communities have effectively cleaned up and repurposed brownfield properties (see Brownfield Success Stories). The DNR is happy to help you and your community with your cleanup and redevelopment efforts. Request a Green Team meeting and start the conversation today!

Dredging Complete At Howards Bay

M/Vs Lee A. Tregurtha and Stewart J. Cort coming into Fraser Shipyards in Howards Bay, a hub for maritime commerce, historical sawmill and grain industries for more than a century. The only U.S. shipyard above the Soo Locks and largest grain elevator in the Duluth-Superior Harbor are located here. Photo Credit: David Schauer

The Great Lakes Legacy Act dredging project in Howards Bay is complete, marking a key milestone in pollution cleanup in the St. Louis River Area of Concern (AOC). Howards Bay is an industrial bay in the City of Superior, Wisconsin that’s important for Great Lakes commerce.

The project was performed in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Fraser Shipyards Inc., the City of Superior, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in coordination with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The $21.5 million project in the St. Louis River AOC was funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with in-kind and cash contributions from the non-federal partners.

84,660 cubic yards of sediments contaminated with lead, mercury, tributyltin and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were removed from Howards Bay and the three slips located within it. Maintenance dredging in the Federal Navigational Channel removed approximately 34,000 cubic yards of sediment.

The completed project provides a healthier aquatic habitat that will improve the overall health of the St. Louis River. It also clears the way for future maintenance dredging to accommodate large vessels entering the shipyard, which had previously been restricted due to contamination in Howards Bay.

Dredged materials that met strict environmental safety criteria were placed on the closed Wisconsin Point Landfill to improve the function and slope of the landfill cap. The dredged materials are covered with six inches of clean material from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Erie Pier facility and then topped with six additional inches of topsoil to help establish native vegetation.

The landfill is being stabilized with hydro-mulch to protect the surrounding environment until permanent vegetation is established in the spring. As part of the project, the City of Superior plans to open the former landfill to the public as a natural area complete with gravel trails, benches and a pavilion.

To learn more about the project click here.

To learn more about the St. Louis River AOC click here.

Brownfields Fundamentals: DNR’s Ready For Reuse Program Can Fund Your Community’s Environmental Cleanup Project

If you’re a local government professional but haven’t played a role in the environmental cleanup and redevelopment of a blighted property, the term “brownfield” may not be completely familiar. But chances are good that there’s one or more of them in your community.

By definition, a brownfield is a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. In your community, that may be a shuttered gas station on Main Street, or a former lumber or textile mill on the edge of town. It’s the site you often drive past and think to yourself, “We should do something about that. That property has potential.”

To be sure, most land in communities – large or small – is not contaminated and is suited for development. But even perceived environmental contamination can present barriers to land reuse. It is important to know that even when land does have environmental contamination, it often can be cleaned up and redeveloped at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.

Redeveloping brownfield properties helps protect public health, reduces blight and enhances community safety. In many cases, it also creates jobs, generates local tax revenues, and may have positive impacts on nearby commercial and residential development.

Among the variety of resources and assistance that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can bring to the table to help towns and cities across the state address brownfield cleanup and redevelopment challenges is the DNR’s Ready for Reuse program.

Ready for Reuse is a program managed by the DNR and funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant. Since the DNR began offering the program in 2004, Ready for Reuse has funded 39 cleanup projects in Wisconsin to the tune of more than $11 million in awards. Ready for Reuse can be an attractive funding option for many projects, with flexible repayment schedules, no interest terms, and the possibility of 30-percent loan forgiveness.

Ready for Reuse offers financial assistance to local governments, tribes and non-profits at brownfield sites that are currently going through the Wis. Admin. Code NR chs. 700-799 cleanup process. Ready for Reuse can also be leveraged at sites that previously received case closure with the DNR but have residual contamination that needs to be managed during construction.

The DNR’s redevelopment specialists welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your key partners to discuss issues, answer questions and give everyone a better understanding of how the DNR can partner with your community to help reach your redevelopment goals. DNR staff offer expert advice regarding environmental liability protections, regulatory processes and financial award programs available for the investigation, remediation and redevelopment of a contaminated property.

To find out if a Ready for Reuse loan is right for your community, or other ways that the DNR can assist with your cleanup and redevelopment efforts, reach out to request a Green Team meeting.