LETTER: City worker's response to inquiry wasn't 'living up to our name'

To the Telegram: "Safety first." We all have seen safety signs. Most jobs have safety classes that workers must take to be able to work there. Apparently there is no such thing as safety concern by some city workers of the great city of Superior....

Pond Hockey
A bonfire that burned at the pond hockey tournament over the weekend at Barker's Island include treated and painted wood, according to letter writer Heinz Winterscheidt of Superior. (Jed Carlson/

To the Telegram:

"Safety first." We all have seen safety signs. Most jobs have safety classes that workers must take to be able to work there. Apparently there is no such thing as safety concern by some city workers of the great city of Superior.

During the last weekend of January, the annual pond hockey activities were held at Barker's Island on Lake Superior. What a great event. Many energetic athletes, fans and visitors came to participate. This annual event is already well known. To warm up there is traditionally a huge bonfire, which is kept burning for the better part of the weekend event. Many people are around the bonfire having a great time. And many children enjoy the warmth of the crackling wood fire while playing in the nearby snow banks. Needless to say, everyone is breathing the smoke from the fire, especially the children who are very much in their element and breathing twice as hard as normal from the exercise. Breathing smoke from a wood fire is not a normal thing to do, but it can happen. Breathing the smoke from a fire begins to be very dangerous when it involves construction wood, treated with chemicals and paint, as well as wooden pallets, which are often saturated with dangerous chemicals. The devastating health effects show afterwards and nobody knows where they came from. Here begins my conflict with the wood issue.

Driving with my vehicle on Thursday, Jan. 28, past the event area I noticed a city worker moving a huge truckload of wood. I asked him if this wood was meant for the bonfire, and his answer was "Yes, this is for the hockey boys." I was shocked when I saw the mountain of treated, painted construction wood. This cannot be. The same thing happened in past years. I called the Superior Fire Department and explained the situation. A friendly lady from the fire department advised me that the responsible person would come out to take a look at this. When the person from the fire department came, he asked me for my name and left with the words, "This will not burn." Pointing to this mountain of wood, he said, "This will not be burned." I asked him what the next step was. He told me he or one of the other firefighters would come and check if this tainted wood was actually in the fire. If so, the fire department would put out the fire immediately.

On Friday, I saw preparation made to start the bonfire. As I was concerned, I called the fire department again. As I was in the area of the site where the wood in question was to be burned, I noticed someone was piling up this treated wood to create the fire. Just as I was done talking on the phone with the fire department, someone approached me with a very rude and threatening voice. "If you harass my boys more, than I sue you, the police department and the fire department," he shouted. This man was very enraged. "And now get the hell out of here or else!" he yelled.


This person identified himself as the foreman of the city workers. The city workers were delivering benches for people to sit on and placing them. I want to point out I had not harassed anyone nor had I talked to any city worker in this matter. I asked this man, "Can we discuss normal?" and he screamed back at me "I don't talk to you, now get the hell out of here."

I had not harassed anyone, I had not even talked to the workers and I was like many people, standing on public property not interfering with the city workers, who were unloading material for the event. Also, I was verbally threatened for doing my duty as a resident of this city. Maybe this person is not capable to be in the position of a crew leader. I then left immediately.

Later I took photos of the treated wood being burned, and apparently, nobody cared. Needless to say, I observed many people, young and old, having a great time and breathing this poisoned wood smoke, without knowing the danger they were in. Why was this construction wood there in the first place? The reason this wood falls under the category of hazardous material that it is too dangerous to the environment. This wood cannot even be taken to the local landfill. Also, is a local event an ideal place to get rid of this potentially poisoned wood? Is the city of Superior in possession of such wood, and the crew leader found a great way of disposing it while endangering the health of unsuspecting people. If the city workers know the danger of burning tainted wood, and are not doing anything about it, then I have only two reasonable explanations. Either they are afraid to lose their jobs or they are buddy-buddy and don't care if the public gets hurt. I think this job foreman owes the residents of Superior a public apology in the media or he may be relieved of his responsibilities.

Do I need to be threatened for doing my duty as a concerned citizen? If we condone such behavior, than we should abandon the slogan: "Living up to our name."

Heinz Winterscheidt,


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