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Monday, November 29, 2021
Ellison Bay • Reader photo by Kathlyn Steele
 
Want to see your photo featured as our weekly header image? Submit your own to photos@upnorthnewswi.com!

A New Proposed Clean Water Rule Will Be Up for Public Comment This Week 

  • The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold its first hearing this Wednesday on a rule designed to limit the amount of some hazardous materials in drinking water. The contaminants affected by the rule are two of a family of once-widely-used industrial chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which have been linked to a variety of health conditions including cancer, low birth weights, and increased cholesterol.
     
  • The proposed rule would limit the amount of two PFAS chemicals—PFOA and PFOS—that could be present in Wisconsin drinking water to 20 parts per trillion (ppt). This limit would be well below the federal Environmental Protection Agency's advisory of 70 ppt, defying recent moves by the Republican-led Legislature to weaken or eliminate standards. But the proposed rule is still far above the 1 ppt limit recommended by researchers
     
  • PFAS chemicals have been detected in the drinking water supplies of several communities around the state, including French Island near La Crosse, Madison, Rhinelander, Eau Claire, and the Marinette area.
     
  • The proposed regulation also includes provisions for regular testing to identify PFAS contamination. The DNR estimates that 13 Wisconsin communities will find PFAS levels above the 20 ppt threshold in at least some of their drinking water sources and that an additional 13 businesses with their own water systems will find the same.
     
  • The public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 10 a.m. Members of the public can participate by joining the meeting's Zoom link or calling 312-626-6799.

—Reported by JT Cestkowski

Wisconsin's Mom-and-Pop Shops Got a Boost on Small Business Saturday

  • Small businesses throughout Wisconsin have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic, but many across the state report a strong start to the holiday shopping season and an especially busy Small Business Saturday.
     
  • Owners of small businesses in Madison said sales have been up in recent days and customers have been especially numerous since Thanksgiving. Likewise, main street business owners in northern Wisconsin communities, such as Superior and Bayfield, also report higher-than-normal sales in recent days. And downtown Eau Claire small business operators said they were especially busy Saturday. 
     
  • “There are a lot of great little shops right here in Eau Claire, and I want to support them this year because I know they have struggled during the pandemic,” Eau Claire resident Kelly Schultz said.
     
  • As supply chain issues continue and make some purchases at larger stores more difficult, Gov. Tony Evers and other state officials are urging Wisconsin residents to do their holiday shopping at local small businesses. “Our small businesses have been incredibly [hard-hit] during this pandemic,” Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said. “But they’ve also been so resilient.”

—Reported by Julian Emerson

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Got Cool Holiday Photos? We Want to See 'Em!

  • With Thanksgiving behind us, UpNorthNews wants to highlight our state's beautiful holiday decorations and scenery.
     
  • Do you have a light display that would make Clark Griswold jealous? Did you capture a great shot of an animal frolicking through a snow flurry? Or how about a gorgeous landscape photo of one of Wisconsin's lakes or rolling hills all dressed up in snow?
     
  • Whatever this season looks like for you, we want to see it! We'll be using submissions for our weekly reader photo feature and for photo galleries like we did for all your incredible fall photos.
     
  • If you'd like to be featured, email us a photo with your name and a description at photos@upnorthnewswi.com!
(Graphic by Shana Ford)
 
Hanukkah began last night. Blessings to you and your family if you celebrate!
ABC Supply Stadium in Beloit shows how small communities can clean up polluted sites and turn them into public gathering spots. (Photo by JT Cestkowski)

Beloit's Brownfield-to-Baseball Success Story Sets Example for Cleaning Up Polluted Areas

  • The Beloit Sky Carp, a minor league baseball team, got a new name this month that will pair well with its new ballpark, ABC Supply Stadium. While the name change is an eye-catcher, it's the stadium that has turned heads among government officials for the way it transformed a polluted property into a community center.
     
  • The field opened this past August and is built atop a site where once sat a manufactured gas plant that spewed carcinogenic pollutants into the surrounding soil. The city of Beloit built a wastewater treatment plant on the grounds in the latter half of the 20th century. When that, too, shut down, the lot languished until 2020 when Hendricks Commercial Properties began constructing the stadium.
     
  • "It's incredibly exciting for us to have this baseball stadium here," said Sarah Lock, Beloit's director of strategic communications. "It's not just baseball. It's for our entire community, and it's for Beloit." The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources called the redevelopment—turning a former polluted site into a hub for the surrounding community—a model for how other cities should try to transform their brownfield sites.
     
  • Even though the city had done some cleanup of the site, the developers had to take special care to protect workers during construction and ensure the toxic chemicals remained buried beneath several feet of dirt. They installed other systems designed to protect the workers and fans who have already flocked to the stadium.
Read more from JT Cestkowski at our website, or watch his video report at our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

Small Towns Have Received $206 Million in COVID Relief Funds

  • More than 1,800 Wisconsin municipalities have received a collective $205.8 million in coronavirus relief funds, Gov. Tony Evers' office announced Monday.
     
  • The funds came from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year. Communities with fewer than 50,000 residents were eligible for the money, which was handed out by the state (larger cities like Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay received money directly from the federal government).
     
  • "From addressing the public health impacts of the pandemic to investing in needed critical infrastructure, to helping ensure families and businesses financially recover, these funds will allow local governments to invest in their community's unique needs and will make a major difference for Wisconsinites across our state," Evers said in a statement.
     
  • Some communities have already put other ARPA money to work. For example, Sheboygan is replacing a nearly century-old sewer line at no extra cost to residents, and Superior is putting a chunk of ARPA dollars toward broadband expansion.
—Reported by Jonathon Sadowski

Biden: Omicron Variant Is 'Cause for Concern, Not a Cause for Panic'

  • President Joe Biden on Monday addressed growing concerns about the newly identified Omicron variant of COVID-19, saying the new strain is a "cause for concern, not a cause for panic."
     
  • Omicron was identified last week by researchers in South Africa, and preliminary findings suggest the variant's mutations could make it resistant to vaccines and immunity gained from previous infection; the alarm sent the medical community on a race to nail down the new strain's characteristics. No cases have yet been discovered in the US, but officials are bracing for it.
     
  • "You have to get your vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster," Biden said. "Sooner or later, we're going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States."
     
  • It is currently believed vaccines still offer some protection against Omicron, but Biden said the White House is already working with vaccine manufacturers to develop a "contingency plan" in case medical experts determine that the existing vaccines are ineffective against the mutation.
Reported by Jonathon Sadowski. Watch a clip of President Biden's address and read more at our Facebook and Instagram pages.
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