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Energy & Environment

Government spending bill includes $1.6 million for Rhinelander PFAS issues

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Ben Meyer-WXPR
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Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed the $1.5 trillion government spending measure after weeks of debates by lawmakers.

Included in that budget is $1.6 million dollars going to Rhinelander.

“Really the inclusion of money for Rhinelander was a once in a generation,” said Rhinelander City Administrator Zach Vruwink.

Vruwink says the last time Rhinelander was included a federal appropriations bill was nearly 20 years ago for the wastewater treatment plant.

This time around, $1.6 million will go towards finding solutions to the city’s PFAS problem.

“We made the pitch that it really was around safeguarding the city from PFAS,” said Vruwink.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) visited Rhinelander last year to learn more about city’s PFAS challenges.

Rhinelander shut down two of its wells due to high levels of the forever chemicals. She hopes eventually the city will be used as an example on how to handle PFAS contamination.

“I think that this is a very important way to begin when Rhinelander recognized quite early on about PFAS contamination in two of their wells. Hopefully we’ll be able to demonstrate best practices that can be utilized elsewhere at a lower cost,” said Baldwin.

Vruwink says the city will be working on how to use the funds in the weeks to come.

It will likely go towards building a new well or treatment options for the two non-operational wells.

He also says the city will need to match the funds, but that’s still a better option than the alternative.

“Without this funding source, the city was faced with having to go it alone. Which would have required us to raise utility rates dramatically to afford to address the issue. That certainly wasn’t our first option,” said Vruwink.

Vruwink says it will still take some time.

Costs have gone up since the city look into initial estimates for these projects and they want to consult with the experts in the field on their best options.

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