By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The new year has just begun, and people are working hard on their resolutions. Often, people tend to focus inward. They want to work towards becoming a better person or curbing a bad habit. In addition to looking inward, people should also consider looking outward at the world around them.
In Milwaukee, it’s not uncommon to see litter lining the road or open areas. Normally this time of year the snow covers it up, but that’s hardly the case this season. Although groups like Heal the Hood and Friends of Lincoln Park make an effort to clean up the neighborhood, there are some areas that are beyond residents’ control.
When a land’s soil is contaminated, for example, there are not much community members can do. This is where government agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) come into play.
Recently, the Superfund program, which was created in 1980, has made a comeback. The program’s purpose was to fund the cleanup of areas filled with contaminated substances. Under the EPA, its goal is “protecting human health and the environment.”
This past December the EPA announced that it would be opening a public comment period, where Milwaukee residents could remark on a proposed cleanup plan. The plan in question refers to the Solvay Coke and Gas Company site.
According to the EPA, the site covers roughly 46 acres of land. It is near the Kinnickinnic River and the Lincoln Memorial Harbor. The perimeter also includes several sets of train tracks. For many, it’s a recognizable area, even if they don’t know it by name.
The EPA reported that as early at 1866 the land hosted a series of industrial properties. Various groups utilized the land and its buildings until 1983. Later, Wisconsin Wrecking maintained a scrap and salvage operation. This facility lasted until Jan. 2003. Eventually, in May 2017, the site was fenced in and We Energies obtained control.
Due to the industrial environment, the area’s natural properties began to shift and became contaminated. The EPA said that the area contains a large amount of oily soil. There’s also a possibility that some of the soil has been contaminated by cyanide.
The proposal to clean up the soil would cost $15.9 million dollars. The EPA is currently suggesting that We Energies, which is one of the responsible companies, would help clean up the soil.
The plan includes: stabilizing and solidifying cap oily soil, excavating oily soil and cyanide soil and removing pipes that could contaminate surface water. After, a cover would be installed over the site, and there is the possibility to install a groundwater monitoring well network.
While that is the proposed plan, an official plan will be finalized after the public comment section ends on Jan. 18. Information regarding the site in greater detail is available at Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., and the Bay View Library, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee.
Residents also have the opportunity to send comments to EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, Susan Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, there will also be a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Bay View Library Community Room. EPA and Wisconsin Department of Naturel Resources staff will be on hand from 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. The hope is to answer questions and discuss the cleanup and site in more detail.
This year, instead of focusing every bit of energy inward, consider taking a moment to look around and help fix the planet. It doesn’t have to be commenting on a public proposal, rather it can be as simple as picking up the trash in a neighborhood or park.