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Congressional District # 08


EPA ID# MND000686196
Last Updated: June, 2015

Site Description

The Burlington Northern (Brainerd/Baxter Plant) site is located on the boundary between the cities of Brainerd and Baxter, in Crow Wing County, Minnesota, in an area south of the Paul Bunyan State Trail and State Highway 210 and north of W Laurel Street.  The Mississippi River flows approximately 3,000 feet east of the site. The site is bordered by commercial and light industrial areas to the north and southwest and by residential areas to the south and southeast.

The Northern Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Railroad operated a tie treatment facility at the site from about 1907 to 1986.  Railraod ties were treated with creosote and fuel oil.  Wastewater generated from the wood-treating process was sent to two shallow, unlined ponds.  This created a sludge which contaminated both the underlying soils and the groundwater with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other contaminants.  Area residents and businesses are connected to city water.  No original buildings currently exist on-site, only cleanup-related structures.

Site Responsibility

The site cleanup is being performed by BNSF Railway Company under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  EPA is currently the primary agency overseeing the cleanup, in consultation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). 

Threats and Contaminants

Prior to the operation of the groundwater treatment system, contaminated groundwater threatened private water wells, and surface water was at risk from contamination with carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic PAHs, oil and grease, and phenols.  Soils at the site were also heavily contaminated with PAHs prior to removal and treatment and lower levels of contamination remain in on-site soils.

Cleanup Progress

Burlington Northern signed an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with EPA and MPCA in 1985, and EPA signed a remedy decision document in 1986.  Prior to that time, wastewater and liquid creosote had been removed from a lagoon and transported to a wastewater treatment plant, and additional creosote was reused by an on-site plant.  The remedy selected by EPA included on-site treatment and capping of remaining contaminated soils and sludges, and a groundwater  control system to address contaminated groundwater by using groundwater pump-out wells. 

Visibly contaminated soils and sludges were excavated from the site and placed in an on-site lined Land Treatment Unit.  Burlington Northern operated the soil treatment area under EPA and MPCA oversight from 1987 to 1994.  After treatment was completed, the residually-contaminated soils in the Land Treatment Unit were capped in place.  About 14,000 cubic yards of treatment residuals and contaminated soil were placed in a lined cell onsite.  The containment cell currently is maintained by Burlington Northern and operates under a RCRA permit issued by MPCA.  In 2005 to 2007, Burlington Northern conducted an additional study, under MPCA oversight, of soils remaining outside of the containment unit.

The groundwater pumpout system was constructed in 1985.  The system pumped contaminated groundwater from three wells to a storm sewer.  A pilot groundwater aeration (air injection) system was added in 1992.  Additional air injection wells were placed in operation in 1995 to aerate the width of the contaminant plume while pumping continued.  From 2001 to 2008, various combinations of pumping and air injection were used to control groundwater.  Since 2008, an expanded air injection system has been used to control and treat contaminants in groundwater.  

The Superfund program conducts periodic Five-Year Reviews to evaluate whether the remedy at a site remains protective.  The latest Five Year Review, completed by EPA and MPCA in 2011, documented that the remedy, as currently operating, is protective in the short-term and that the groundwater plume, which exceeds drinking water standards, has decreased significantly in size.  However, the review also raised issues which should be addressed to ensure long-term protection related to soil, groundwater, and the soil treatment unit. 

In 2012, BNSF Railway Company and EPA signed a new Administrative Order on Consent.  The agreement requires BNSF, with EPA oversight, to evaluate the extent of soil and groundwater contamination remaining at the site and assess the best cleanup methods to address that contamination.  The agreement also requires BNSF to re-examine the former soil treatment unit.  The first phase of field work, overseen by EPA, began in July 2013.  Investigation work was conducted in three phases and was completed in 2013. 

Currently, BNSF is in the process of finalizing the supplemental Remedial Investigation Report, including human health and ecological risk assessment. Following this work, remedial alternatives for the remaining contamination will be evaluated. When that is completed, EPA plans to propose a modification of the existing cleanup decision to the public.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
leah evison (evison.leah@epa.gov)
(312) 886-2064

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
cheryl allen
(312) 353-6196




Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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