How does one battle an organization that has so much more power than you do? I wish I knew.
The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has brought a case against our family business of Laubenheimers Garage in February of this year. According to the DNR, we have caused contamination in the groundwater with a chemical called PCE. PCE is used in dry cleaning, occasionally in metal working shops for cleaning and prepping metal items, and in parts cleaning machines. There is more information on PCE at the end of this letter or you can go to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services page.
These are the facts of our dilemma:
Todd Reinke has worked at Laubenheimers Garage for 30 years. Our family has owned it since 2005. Our family has lived in this area for 26 years.
PCE has not been used at Laubenheimers in the last 30 years. A parts washer at the shop before that time MAY have had used this chemical, but it is unclear.
The Town of Richfield has been an area filled with metal working shops and businesses, auto repair shops and auto body shops, and more, historically. Many of which are in a 2 mile radius of our shop.
The contamination was found in the ground water in 2 locations: NORTH of our business on Depot Street and in one monitoring well on our parking lot. The location that tested higher, was the North spot, NOT on our property, at 1360 parts per billion in the wetted zone of the soil. Our property tested at the level of detection and at 2.4 parts per billion (half of the state and federal standards)
There is a cistern under Depot Street for the fire department containing 10,000 gallons of water in that area. For many years it was covered by only a grate. ANYTHING that leaked on the road would drain into it. A manhole cover was installed while the previous owner had the property.
The ground water flows Northwest to Southeast according to our lawyer and his experts. The DNR says that the water flows West to East. According to the information we have, the water flows from the Northwest of our business under our property to the Southeast.
The ground water by our business is 16 ft below ground and no PCE was found in the soil tests above the wetted zone.
According to the DNR, the WDOT (Wisconsin Department of Transportation) did the testing and it was found to be done incorrectly. They only tested on the 2 wells that had detections and neither the WDNR nor the WDOT will redo the testing.
The DNR is requiring Laubenheimers Garage (our family) to pay for testing to be redone.
Laubenheimers Garage has gone above and beyond what is needed legally to prevent contamination of soil and water for the 12 years our family has owned the business.
According to the DNR, this is an “old” contamination problem that occurred before we owned the business and the previous owners owned it. Since WDNR has done no other testing for this PCE contaminant in any other area except for around our shop, it is likely that it is in other wells and groundwater within the area.
Our lawyer is well known in fighting environmental issues. He has stated that this is “UNJUST”.
Due to this lawsuit, $10,000 has been spent on lawyer fees already, not including the time away from work to meet with the DNR, the lawyer and to do research to understand this issue.
Another $10,000 will be necessary to redo these tests, pay for boring to be done inside the shop, and pay for a monitoring well.
If contamination is found, the DNR will remediate the downtown area of Richfield which will severely affect many of the businesses in proximity to the locations of concern.
If this goes into remediation of the land, our family business will be required to pay $750,000 to clean up what we did not contaminate.
As a family-run business, we will be forced to close and will lose all that we have worked for.
Fortunately Washington County has a grant for site investigation work from the USEPA and the Village of Richfield and the Village Administrator have worked with Washington County to apply for these grant funds to assist us with the additional site investigation work and costs.
Why are we telling you all of this?
We need your help.
We ask for your prayers first and foremost.
We ask that you call our congressman, Bob Gannon, Rep.Gannon@legis.wisconsin.gov,(608) 264-8486, to explain your concern over this injustice and the potential effect on our community.
Please consider giving toward our legal expenses so that we can continue to provide quality automotive service to this area.
If you choose to donate donate toward our legal expenses, send it to First National Bank Hartford, Richfield. Label it “Laubenheimer’s Garage DNR Case Fund”.
This has been extremely difficult for our entire family. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your support all of these years. We are believing that God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
The Reinke Family and
Employees of Laubenheimers
From the Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Also known as: Perchloroethylene, Perc, PCE, PerSec, Tetranec. Chemical reference number (CAS): 127-18- 4
(PCE) is a nonflammable, liquid solvent widely used in dry cleaning, wood processing, fabric manufacturing, and metal degreasing. In homes, it may be found in suede protectors, paint removers, furniture stripper, water repellents, silicone lubricants, spot removers, glues, and wood cleaners. PCE evaporates slowly at room temperature and has a sweet, ether-like odor. When PCE is improperly disposed of or spilled, most of it will evaporate into the air. The rest will seep into the soil. It may mix with groundwater and contaminate water supplies.
The state and federal drinking water standards for PCE are both set at 5 parts per billion (ppb). We suggest you stop drinking water containing more than 5 ppb. If levels of PCE are above 70 ppb, you may need to avoid washing, bathing, or using the water for other purposes as well. Contact your local public health department for more information specific to your situation.