City staff looks into contamination at Pfiffner Pioneer Park
By Taylor Hale
STEVENS POINT – The city of Stevens Point is looking into contamination at Pfiffner Pioneer Park, near the site of the new Cultural Commons project.
Finance committee staff approved a motion affirming the city did not play a role in the groundwater contamination at Pfiffner Pioneer Park during a meeting on Feb. 8. The contamination was found last summer when city staff was preparing the rain garden south of the Cultural Commons.
Director of Community Development Ryan Kernosky said that staff was made aware of the pollution when park guests noticed a “sheen” on area groundwater and soil. The oil-like sheen was caused by PAHs, a carcinogenic remnant of oil and gas.
City staff worked with Sand County Environmental to provide preliminary testing. The group urged the city to provide notice to the state DNR, which they did last August. The DNR provided the city with a responsible party determination, holding the city responsible for cleaning the contamination; which does not mean the city caused the condition.
The city will be responsible for phase 1 and 2 environmental reports and remediation. The city has until Feb. 28 to hire a contractor. Projected costs for the reports and remediation plan are as high as $100,000. The city is looking into EPA Brownfield assessment grants to help cover the costs. For the municipality to utilize the grant, staff must prove the city did not cause the contamination.
City staff has fenced in the subject area to prevent public access. The rest of Pfiffner Pioneer Park is open and safe for recreation.
History of the property
Pfiffner Pioneer Park was acquired by the city in 1946 from the Consolidated Water Power Company (CWPCo). The property was historically used as a railroad line and lumber storage site.
The former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP), which closed in the 1970s, is also located just north of the contaminated site.
The DNR noted that they cannot verify the source of the PAH contamination in the rain garden is the neighboring MGP site, and that further testing is needed.
“This affirmation of non-city caused contamination at Pfiffner Pioneer Park, adjacent to Cultural Commons is only being discussed to open up outside funding opportunities to address the reporting requirements. Remediation is likely to be expected to be funded out of the city’s budget, unless there are additional outside funding sources or if during the environmental investigations the causer can be identified and responsible to cover the costs to clean up the contamination,” a statement from Kernosky and Parks Director Dan Kremer read.