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September 18, 2019

8/2/2019 4:15:00 PM
Two City Council meetings scheduled for next week
By River News Staff

The Rhinelander City Council is set to get back to work next week after two consecutive meetings scheduled for July were canceled due to an agenda posting error and quorum issues.

According to an email from city administrator Daniel Guild outlining the upcoming schedule, the council will hold special meetings at 6 p.m. Monday and 7:15 p.m. Thursday. A regular meeting of the council is also scheduled for Monday, Aug. 12.

According to the email, "through the end of July, City Hall has received many requests from select Alderpersons for items to be added to the agenda. These items are already on top of a large list of items which have experienced some delay due to the challenges with scheduling Common Council meetings the end of last month."

As a result, the mayor has proposed the council hold a special meeting Monday "to address the list of questions from Council members." The second special meeting on Thursday will be an opportunity for the council "to get caught up on business items from the rescheduled July 22nd meeting," the email states.

The Aug. 12 meeting was previously scheduled as part of the council's regular calendar.

The council last met July 8.

Meetings were scheduled for July 22 and July 29, however the July 22 meeting was canceled due to an error in posting the agenda. The July 29 meeting was canceled after a quorum issue arose.

In the meantime, the city has been grappling with the ramifications of the news that one of its municipal wells is contaminated.

Municipal well No. 7, located near the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport, was placed offline June 24 after elevated levels of chemicals knowns as PFAS were detected in the drinking water, the city announced in a Facebook post late Monday evening, July 22.

The next morning, July 23, the Oneida County Health Department released an advisory to area media outlets addressing the well issue.

"A municipal well is offline after levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were found above the EPA's health advisory (70ng/L) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommended groundwater standard level (20 ng/L)," the health department press release said. "DNR is investigating potential sources of the contamination and is working to determine the extent of the contamination. The well with high levels is by the airport and is currently turned off, meaning the public water system is OK to drink."

The city's Facebook post also asserted that the water is safe.

"Based on current, available information, we can conclude that the water is not considered a potential threat to health and is safe to drink," the advisory read. "The City will continue testing for these chemicals, monitoring the quality of the water provided our customers, and communicating with customers the information collected."

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics and products that resist grease, water and oil. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to higher cholesterol, lower female fertility, lower infant birthweights, and other health risks.

A mailing the city sent to its water customers regarding the well contamination issue stated the city received the results of voluntary testing of Well No. 7 on June 24, however the River News has published records which suggest certain city officials learned of the contamination results on June 20 (a Thursday) and were urged by the former director of public works, Tim Kingman, to make a public announcement.

"Received email information from Lab regarding voluntary PFAs testing details on well supplies, there is an issue with Well 7 that requires coordination with WNDR, shutdown, and public announcement. Will forward to Daniel," Kingman wrote in an email time-stamped 12:01 p.m. June 20 and sent to mayor Chris Frederickson and city administrator Daniel Guild.

After learning of the June 20 email, the River News reached out to both Guild and Frederickson to request an explanation for the discrepancy in the dates listed in the city's advisory and the email. To date, neither Frederickson or Guild has responded to our request.

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