MADISON – Bipartisan legislation requiring the cleanup of contaminated lead glass and other electronic waste located in Rusk, Price and Washington counties has passed the Wisconsin State Senate with a unanimous 32-0 vote, according to a press release Thursday from the office of Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, co-authored the law with Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley, D-Mason.
Assembly Bill 943 requiring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to contract for the cleanup of contaminated lead glass and other electronic waste left behind by “5R Processors Limited” was passed by the Wisconsin State Senate on March 9. The Assembly version, drafted by Rep. James Edming, R-Glen Flora, passed a unanimous 96-0 vote last week, and the legislation will now go to Governor Tony Evers where it is expected to be signed into law.
“Without state assistance, the burden of properly disposing of these harmful chemicals and hazardous wastes would have ultimately fallen on local governments and taxpayers,” Petrowski said. “My office has worked with the DNR to make this proposal as simple as possible to administer – and I truly believe it is the best available solution to a bad situation.”
5R Processors was an electronics recycling company formerly based in Ladysmith. Investigations by the DNR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency led to the prosecution of the company’s management by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District.
While most of the legal issues stemming from the situation have been resolved, millions of pounds of e-waste have been left behind with no one responsible to clean it up, according to the press release. E-waste is currently contained in several tractor-trailers and warehouses located in Rusk, Price and Washington counties.
“This is great news for Price County, which I represent, as well as other parts of the state,” Bewley said. “I want to thank Senator Petrowski for his leadership on this issue and his willingness to work across the aisle on good public policy.”
The bill directs the DNR to contract with a third party for the removal and proper disposal of this waste using $2.5 million in segregated funds from the state Environmental Management Account.
“I am delighted to see this important legislation being approved by the Senate,” Rep. Edming said. “While we would all love to see those responsible for this hazardous waste paying for the cost of cleanup, they will probably never have the money to do so. This bill is a big step forward in helping communities impacted by the 5R.
This bill shows that bipartisanship in Madison is possible, Petrowski said in the press release. Petrowski credited the work of local officials, particularly Ladysmith administrator Al Christianson, who brought the issue to the state’s attention. He said lawmakers from both sides of the aisle came together to effectively resolve an issue in just over six weeks with unanimous support.