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Water pollution; eviction risks; armed despite restraining order; Kenosha police scrutiny; stop-and-frisk opaqueness

Of note: This week we highlight a story by The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting about how PFAS contamination has transformed the lives of Marinette, Wisconsin-area residents. Freelance journalist John McCracken reported the story, which Wisconsin Watch republished and distributed. The report details the public health and legal fallout in the four years after Johnson Controls, Inc. disclosed water contamination from polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals found in products such as household cleaners, paint and firefighting foam that are linked to infertility in women, stunted developmental growth and cancer. About a thousand Peshtigo residents are seeking compensation through a $17.5 million lawsuit, claiming property and health damages, McCracken reports. 

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Jeff Lamont, a Marinette, Wis., resident and retired hydrologist, is seen next to a creek where it empties into Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. This creek is the most highly PFAS-contaminated of all the tributaries that empty into the lake based on a recent study funded by The Sea Grant Institute. Sampling occurred at all significant tributaries from the eastern shores of Green Bay at the north end of Door County, Wis., to Escanaba, Mich. Mike Erhart for The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

‘The middle of a massive contamination’: Residents of Wisconsin region struggle with aftereffects of dangerous ‘forever chemicals’

Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting — May 4, 2021

Craig Koller grew up splashing through backyard creeks and biking gravel trails, sometimes through the Johnson Control Industries Fire Technology Center. Black smoke wafted overhead as it conducted controlled burns to test firefighting foam, producing a dangerous “forever chemical” known as PFAS. As a kid growing up in the northern Wisconsin port city of Marinette, Koller didn’t think much of being around the facility or drinking the city’s water. But Koller’s formative years in Marinette likely altered his life forever: Right after graduating from high school in 2007, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The chemicals from the JCI facility contaminated the area’s drinking water are linked to infertility in women, stunted developmental growth and kidney and testicular cancers.

Kenosha police waited 7 months to investigate officer for stolen gun

WISN 12 — April 30, 2021 

Kenosha police officials waited seven months to investigate and discipline Officer Rusten Sheskey after someone stole his service weapon three weeks after he shot Jacob Blake, internal investigative police records show. Sheskey reported the theft to Racine Police and Kenosha Police the same day of the theft: Sept. 15. The stolen Glock 17 pistol was a loaner weapon the department gave Sheskey after Wisconsin Department of Justice investigators seized the pistol used in the Blake shooting. Sheskey told investigators he regularly left the weapon in his girlfriend’s locked vehicle, according to an internal police memo.

A sign inside a Boost Mobile store on Milwaukee’s Atkinson Avenue advertises for emergency rental assistance on Sept. 4, 2020. A federal judge on May 5 tossed out the federal eviction moratorium, which could make it easier for landlords to kick out tenants behind in rent. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

The CDC eviction moratorium may end. What does that mean for Wisconsin?

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service/Wisconsin Watch

A federal judge on Wednesday tossed out the federal eviction moratorium, which could make it easier for landlords to kick out tenants behind in rent. That decision has since been stayed while the federal government appeals. The moratorium  was set to expire June 30, but Congress has approved nearly $50 billion in rental assistance to fill the gap. Tenants who have missed monthly rent payments were protected from being forced out of their homes if they declared financial hardship. It slowed but did not completely halt eviction filings. Milwaukee, for instance, is still seeing hundreds of eviction filings each month but far fewer than in typical years, according to Eviction Lab.

Read more from Wisconsin Watch: Undocumented immigrants qualify for rent relief, but Wisconsin sends mixed signals

Radisson shooter didn’t have to give up guns, despite a restraining order. That isn’t always the case.

Green Bay Press-Gazette — May 6, 2021 

The restraining order against a man who killed two people and wounded another in a shooting at a restaurant attached to Oneida Casino required “clear and convincing evidence” to restrict his access to guns. There are other types of restraining orders in Wisconsin, though — in cases of domestic violence or child abuse — that, when approved, automatically require any guns owned by the subject of the restraining order to be surrendered. The law could be changed to make it easier for courts to assess the risk posed by guns in other situations — in this case, harassment, said Gricel Santiago-Rivera, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “The process already exists,” Santiago-Rivera said. “What I’m saying is we can expand it.”

A Milwaukee police squad car outside the Milwaukee Police Administration building and municipal court. Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New report shows continued lack of progress in police documenting justifications for frisking people

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — May 4, 2021

Two years into a court-mandated effort to reform its stop-and-frisk practices, the Milwaukee Police Department continues to show a lack of progress in documenting the justification for frisks, which are most often performed on Black citizens, according to a new report. It was released by the Boston-based Crime and Justice Institute, which has been tracking and publishing reports on the Milwaukee Police Department’s compliance with a multimillion-dollar settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin over stop-and-frisk practices. A sampling of data shows Milwaukee police failed to properly document the justification for nearly 87% of frisks from July to December 2020.

Read more from Wisconsin Watch: Defund the police? Milwaukee eyes future amid Black Lives Matter protests, coronavirus budget crunch

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.