Tempers Flare At Town Of Peshtigo Board MeetingIssue Date: November 21, 2019
Once again the PFAS contamination issue was the main item at the Town of Peshtigo Board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Starting with Public Comment, Andi Rich addressed Chairperson Herman Pottratz stating, "At the last meeting you should have passed a resolution, I don't see anything on the agenda about the resolution for the Clear Water Act, I want to make sure we are pushing forward".
Pottratz replied, "Marinette County passed the Clear act". Town Clerk, Clarence Coble interjected, "Emails were sent to Senator Dave Hansen and Representative John Nygren that the Town was opposed to the act the way it is currently written." Town resident, Patricia Nighbor said, "I don't recall it being opposed". Pottratz replied, "We don't want the DNR to control everything"! Rich responded,"Can you be more specific, we as citizens want to see this passed to be safe from this poison".
Pottratz replied, "We voted on the bill, but the DNR can't handle what they have now". Rich responded, "You were supposed to re-write a letter or official formal resolution on behalf of the citizens. We need the regulation and the clear water act. All of it needs to be addressed". Pottratz commented, "We are a board and vote on these the way we feel". Nighbor then said, "We didn't ask you to write a letter to oppose, the only one that opposed was you. You were going to recommend to Hansen and Nygren to work together".
Rich addressed Pottratz, "You said you were going to be more transparent, why are you not putting anything on the website"? Pottratz responded, "We don't publish everything on the website, we run a board and try to run this Town we don't play games on Facebook and on the web". Rich replied, "You think keeping us informed on this poison is playing games"?
Town resident, Kayla Furton commented, "Our well contains PFOA, will you please reconsider the clear water act. It is not working with me asking questions, we need the clear act to regulate and provide Corporate responsibility. Please reconsider asking the representatives to consider the clean water act".
Rich then added, "Even at the County level when Nygren heard that the Clear Water Act went to a sub committee, he went to Senator Hansen's office to work on a bill and he was talking about points AGAINST the act. You and the Board have a way stronger voice than we have and you are lying to us". In frustration, Pottratz told Rich, "That is enough and the end of this conversation"!
Jeff Lamont, representative of the Citizens Water Committee in their monthly report stated "It is part of our mission to educate as many people as we can about the water contamination issue. Through the Media and Public Relations we had 300 more users and hits on Facebook and over 65,000 hits on our Save Our Water site. We keep the site fresh, check articles and put out only what is accurate. We are updating our brochures and have distributed over 2,500 copies and will be distributing more. We are also going to be co-ordinating monthly press updates as well".
Lamont continued, "In the past two months a number of people in and out of the plume areas completed surveys and we also talked to people personally finding out overwhelmingly that 99.5% of the 300 people contacted are not interested in annexation to the City of Marinette". After these results, a letter was sent to Mayor Steve Genisot to go on record with the feelings about annexation from the Town residents. The City has been very coy about this and we are unable to get a response from them".
Recently sampling results in Peshtigo tested positive for PFAS in a couple of areas that were tested at 17,000 PPT (Parts Per Trillion). Samples were also taken at Leif and Krause Road and they also were in the 17,000 PPT range. Lamont added, "We are seeing high concentrations quite a long way from where it started. This contamination was mostly in shallow wells".
Lamont stated, his neighbors property has a bedrock well and has been sampled for the past two years and it came out clean and recently showed detection, so don't think if you have a bedrock well that you are safe.
Lamont ended with, "Cedar Corp finished their evaluation and I have a copy to review, but it looks so far like they have done a nice job". Pottratz added, The Cedar Corp report will be available at the Town Hall for people to review. Rich then asked Pottratz, Did you read it"? Pottratz responded, "I read most of it". Rich replied, "How can it be interesting to you if you don't know the problem of the poison." Pottratz said, "I know enough about the problems". Rich started to reply and Pottratz shut her down, saying, "We have had enough of you tonight".
Town Resident, Duane Panske asked if Tyco is saying they are responsible. Lamont replied, "The DNR is working with TYCO and sampling. A work plan has just been issued by Tyco on Nov. 15, however, it was not approved, with the DNR being opposed to their plan with Tyco wanting a consultant to do the work and they will reimburse the consultant. The DNR is not comfortable with that and feel Tyco should be doing the work".
After only appointing Attorney Dave Spangenberg to work with the City of Peshtigo, City of Marinette and Tyco regarding the water supply in the Town of Peshtigo, it was met with opposition with the residents wanting board members also as representatives along with Spangenberg. It was stated in the minutes as "Appoint Board Representatives to work with Town Attorney, City of Peshtigo, City of Marinette and Tyco regarding water supply in the Town of Peshtigo.
Rich addressed Spangenberg, "You are a lawyer, that's your specialty, there is going to be a lot of technical issues you don't have skills for, how are you going to do this"? Spangenberg replied, "I will have to rely on skills of others. I am a contracted employee of the Town and if I am going to negotiate, I don't know of how to do this in any other way. I agree there are going to be things out of my wheel house but I will use other resources".
Lamont responded, "I have a lot of apprehensions with this". Rich interjected, "Why don't we get someone who knows about this, like an environmentalist expert?" Town Resident, Ruth Kowalski stated in the agenda item it also says to appoint 'Board Representatives', you are not referencing any board members as representatives". Pottratz responded, "We decided to have Spangenberg and Attorney Wolf involved."
Rich said, "Wolf is Tyco's lawyer, his interest is going to be for Tyco." Pottratz responded, "No he won't." Other conversations took place as well and resident Chuck Boyle said, "Maybe you should consider resigning". Pottratz replied, "I will when you take my place".
Kowalski asked, "Once you talk with Tyco, are residents that are affected going to have a say? I can come here but I don't have any say even when I speak, my opinion is ignored. This changes the whole ownership of our property".
After discussion and recommendation of the residents the Board approved Superviors Jon Drees and Dan VanBeek as Board Representatives to work with Attorney Spangenberg.
A motion was then made to give Spangenberg and Supervisors Drees and VanBeek to negotiate with JCI (Tyco), the City of Marinette, City Of Peshtigo and the DNR and to consult with experts as deemed necessary, to come up with a viable solution to providing a water source to Town residents affected by the PFOA and PFOS contamination, subject to final determination and approval by the Town Board.
Pottratz advised, "Next Spring, we will be having a referendum for the whole town to vote on water choices from City of Peshtigo, City of Marinette or Wells. Comments were made from some residents already affected, why the whole town, they are not all affected? Panske added, "The referendum should be the whole town. If not affected today, maybe they will be in the future".
In other public comment, Panske addressed the board asking why the Town filled in the Heath Lane ditch and continued to read a section of a letter from the DNR dated Sept. 4, 2019 in reference to the Heath Lane project that stated: 'The DNR does not have legal authority at this time to require the Heath Lane drainage ditch to be backfilled. However, if the Town decides to backfill the ditch or is required by some other entity to backfill the ditch and would like to utilize the previously excavated soil from the Heath Lane drainage ditch, the DNR recommends the Town to hire a qualified consultant to characterize the excavated soil before it is placed back in the Heath Lane drainage ditch to limit the liability for potentially causing the discharge of a hazardous substance or environmental pollution'.
Pottratz responded, "We did work on bidding on a Wednesday and on a Thursday we went to a section by Heath Lane classified as a trout stream to meet with DNR representatives including two ladies and a gentleman and they stressed that we had to do the work there by that following week or be fined $25,000 per day until completed. The only way to get this done was to go with the County because we are not required to secure bids when the County does the work, so we turned it over to the County to get the job done and avoid being fined".
Panske replied, if you didn't get a letter, it was probably not true. You are wasting tax payers dollars. What is the County going to charge us? We need to do things smart and not waste tax payers money". Rich then asked, what was the name of the DNR Representatives and Pottratz replied, "I think it was Sara and another lady and man". Board members who were with Pottratz at that time didn't remember exact names either but confirmed the conversation with the DNR.
On Thursday, Nov. 21, the Board will be meeting with John LeFebvre and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to look at 113 acres of property off of Hwy 41 by Sequins Cheese to see if the Town is interested in securing the property. "If we can get it at a good price or free, this would help with snowmobiling and drainage with a drainage ditch on the property. The County has 445 acres now that will connect Marinette and Peshtigo with trails open to get to other areas and there is enough groups to work on the trails. It will also help with tourism in the County if they advertise the trails".
Rich asked, "Does this connect with crossing the Highway"? Pottratz replied, "It could be". She then replied, "I don't think we should be encouraging crossing the highway". Supervisor Jon Drees replied, "It already does cross the highway by Flame Road". Rich then asked, "Are they going to be putting caution lights there"? Pottratz said, "We will be talking about a set of lights, but that is a good idea".
In other action, the Board discussed the steps to be taken for property at W1975 State Highway 64 in Marinette owned by David Krerowicz which was formerly known as A to Z. Pottratz said, "This has been a mess for many years and it is time to clean it up, it has to get done. He has been given legal notices for 15 years. A letter has gone out and is now in the Attorneys hands". A motion was then made to move forward with legal action.
In his report, Fire Chief Mike Folgert stated the Department sold some old equipment in an online surplus auction. He also reported face piece testing was completed along with extraction training with the Jaws of Life at Ralph's Auto Salvage. He also announced, Derek Monnette was recognized as Firefighter of the year.
The Fire Department went on 14 calls with at least half of them being vehicle crashes, with most of them being on Hwy 41 and none were on Town Roads but on State or County Roads. A number of the crashes were severe and they had to use the jaws of life for one of them. In one incident, a vehicle didn't slow down for the accident scene and crashed into vehicles causing over $14,000 damage. One firefighter was close to being hit but avoided getting hit because of his training and he jumped out of the way. He also mentioned they used the UTV to rescue a hunter that fell from a tree stand to get him to a point where the rescue squad could pick up.
Pottratz asked, "Do you think speed was a factor for the accidents"? Folgert responded, "A combination of speed, cell phones or not paying attention and not just in a specific location. It is happening from the city of Marinette all the way South on Hwy 41. With the new highway and bypasses, the overpasses and bridges ice up and get slippery". Folgert stressed to use caution and watch for black ice and also with deer season and the deer moving around right now it is important to keep an eye out for deer as well.
Rich then asked, "Did you dispose of any PFAS with your surplus sale? Folgert replied, "No." She also asked, "Did you use PFAS in any of the fires"? Folgert responded, "We don't use that type of foam". Rich replied, "It is still PFAS" as she tried to have a conversation about foam and PFAS, but Folgert interjected stating, "I am not going to get involved with that in this meeting".
The next Town of Peshtigo Board Meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 17.
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