Three northern Wisconsin communities receive state brownfields awards

MADISON – Communities in Clark, Lincoln and Rusk counties will make good use of three Department of Natural Resources brownfields awards to help assess contamination at two former wood-processing plants and a former creamery.

The awards consist of contractor services for the projects, and are valued up to $18,000 each. The services will be used to determine soil and groundwater conditions at the former Owen Manufacturing wood processing plant in Clark County; the former Hurd Manufacturing facility in Merrill (Lincoln County); and at the former Sheldon Creamery in Rusk County.

“Years of manufacturing and production have come to an end at these once-thriving businesses,” said Christine Haag, chief of the DNR Brownfields Section. “Now it’s time to clean up these properties and find another use for them. These awards will help get that redevelopment process started.”

The DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program administers the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) grants, and work is conducted by environmental consultants. The grants provide communities with professional environmental assessments of contaminated or potentially contaminated properties and help prepare sites for redevelopment.

For nearly a century, Owen Manufacturing was one of the area’s largest employers, turning out a variety of wood products such as drafting tables and custom kitchen furniture from the 24-acre property. The plant closed in 2004 and has been vacant since that time.

The Merrill property has been a manufacturing site since the late 1800s, and DNR is assisting with the assessment of a one-acre portion of the site used to treat lumber.

The former Sheldon Creamery, on the banks of the Jump River, is a 3-acre site with petroleum contamination.

Department WAM applications require minimal effort by local governments because there is no financial match or project administration involved, making it an attractive opportunity for small communities. In many instances, WAM awards are also leveraged against other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on sites that may have been community eyesores for many years.

Applications can be submitted for a WAM award at any time, although funds are limited. Eligible sites for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing. Gas stations, dry cleaners, salvage yards and agricultural co-ops are not eligible.

For more information, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search for WAM or “brownfield.”