No fines issued for January sewer overflow into Wisconsin River

WAUSAU (WAOW) – State regulators have issued no citations or fines to the city or Kraft Heinz for the 3.7 million gallons of sewer water that overflowed into the Wisconsin River in January, authorities said Wednesday.

The Department of Natural Resources determined human error at the cheese plant led to the pollution.

About 6,500 pounds of anhydrous milkfat from the cheese plant drained into the sewer over about three hours, causing the line to plug once the food material solidified, the DNR reported in its "enforcement conference summary" to the city.

That forced wastewater into an overflow pipe and into the river, the report said, indicating it took about 24 hours for three city departments to fix the mess, costing $51,600.

The DNR determined there were no “known fish kills” because of the discharge, but 600 pounds of additional phosphorus above the city’s water quality standard permit got into the river, the report said.

The DNR told the city to look for ways for "mitigating both the long term and short term phosphorus impacts," the report said.

Public Works Director Eric Lindman said the city has not been cited and did not seek to recover its costs from the cheese company. "We did require them to make modifications to the process to prevent it from happening again."

Chris Smith, manager of the cheese plant, said the DNR has levied no fines against his plant. He referred other questions to a company spokeswoman in Chicago and she did not immediately respond to an email.

Environmental specialists for the DNR did not immediately return telephone messages Wednesday on whether the case is closed.

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