Jump to main content.


Congressional District # 01


EPA ID# MID980794390
Last Updated: October, 2011

Site Description

The city of Charlevoix is located on an isthmus between Lake Michigan and Round Lake, expanding along the shore of Lake Charlevoix. The population of about 3,000 residents increases to an estimated 30,000 people during the summer months. The Charlevoix Municipal Well site is on the shore of Lake Michigan and consists of a municipal well system made of a shallow well connected to a horizontal flume, buried beneath the beach. This well is no longer in use. In 1981, the city was notified by the Michigan Department of Public Health that its water system was contaminated. In response, the city installed four monitoring wells near its municipal well with the assistance of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). In 1982, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) installed nine additional groundwater monitoring wells. In 1982 and 1983, the MDNR conducted several soil boring studies to try to locate the source of contamination. The city installed a system to introduce oxygen into the municipal supply in 1983 to treat the contamination. This aeration system was only partially effective in removing contaminants from the water. In response, U.S. EPA installed a new municipal water supply in 1985 through an inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Several sources of contamination have been identified through subsequent investigations.  Source areas for the trichloroethylene (TCE) plume included the Charlevoix Middle School between Clinton and Mason Streets.  Source areas for the tetrachloroethylene (PCE) plume include Art's Dry Cleaners (former) on the corner of Grant & Antrim Sts., Hooker's Dry Cleaners (former) on the corner of Bridge & Hurlbut Sts. and the Former Tool & Die Shop on Lincoln Ave between Grant & State Sts.


Site Responsibility

U.S. EPA is the lead federal Agency in partnership with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and local government agencies. The city of Charlevoix and the Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency are responsible for restricting the installation or use of private wells in the area.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), i.e., PCE and TCE.  The cleanup was prompted by detections of TCE in the old municipal water supply system.  Before the new system was installed, people may have been exposed to VOCs through ingestion, skin contact (absorption), or inhalation such as during showering.  All area residents are connected to the municipal water supply.

Cleanup Progress

Groundwater was contaminated with VOCs impacting the municipal water supply. U.S. EPA investigated the contamination and selected an initial cleanup remedy in a Record of Decision (ROD) dated June 12, 1984.  In 1985, the U.S. EPA constructed a new water intake system and filtration plant, using water from Lake Michigan as its source.  A buried intake pipe was constructed that connects to the existing city pump house.  A chlorine diffuser, anchored inside and running the entire length of the intake pipe, disinfects the water.  The intake system and water treatment plant successfully provide safe drinking water.

On September 30, 1985 after completing an extensive investigation of site contamination, U.S. EPA issued a second ROD selecting a cleanup remedy that included the following actions: allowing the contaminant plumes to discharge under natural flow conditions to Lake Michigan; continuing long-term monitoring of the plumes during the natural purging period; and relying on institutional restrictions on the installation of private wells to be enforced by local health officials.   The Record of Decision stated the aquifer would return to a useable state after 50 years. During that 50 year period, institutional controls preventing the installation and use of private wells in the contaminated area would be required. Returning the groundwater to a useable state is expected to include reducing contaminant levels to the Safe Drinking Water Act's Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs).  The MCL for both TCE and PCE is 5 parts per billion ("ppb").

A Close-out Report was signed by the State of Michigan on August 6, 1993 and the site was deleted from the National Priorities List on December 2, 1993.

Since 1995, State funds were used to install and operate soil vapor extraction and groundwater sparge systems in the source areas at all of the source areas described above.  The goal of the treatment systems was to reduce the contaminants in the source area soil and groundwater so that concentrations in the groundwater were no longer a threat to surface water resources. 

The soil vapor extraction ("SVE") system for Art's Dry Cleaners was operated until 1996. 

A soil and groundwater treatment system was installed to clean source area soil and groundwater at Hooker's Dry Cleaners in August 2001. The system was continuously operated until September 2002. Based upon the soil vapor influent analytical and regular groundwater monitoring throughout the treatment period, the system effectively reduced levels of contaminants in the soil and groundwater that are protective of human health and the environment. Groundwater flow direction is from the source area toward Round Lake. Monitor wells installed downgradient and in close proximity to Round Lake indicate levels of PCE in the groundwater are below criteria that are protective of surface water prior to discharging to the lake. This trend is consistent based on eight years of annual groundwater monitoring.  The acceptable level for PCE in groundwater discharging into a surface water is 45 ppb according to Michigan's Groundwater Surface water Interface ("GSI") regulations.

The system for the other source areas was continuously operated until July 2003.  The treatment system significantly reduced levels of contaminants in the soil and groundwater. Groundwater flow direction is from the source area towards the north, and west toward Lake Michigan.  Monitoring wells installed downgradient and in close proximity to these surface water bodies indicate levels of PCE in the groundwater are below the criteria that is protective of surface water prior to the discharging to the lakes.  Soil and groundwater were remedied in the source area to ensure that Lake Michigan is protected from contamination.  

All systems have been decommissioned and groundwater was monitored annually from 1996 to 2006.  The range of TCE concentrations detected in the wells sampled in 2006 downgradient of the Middle School was 2.5 - 8.1 ppb.  PCE concentrations in wells closest to Lake Michigan ranged from 1.1 - 33 ppb in 2006.  Some wells were also monitored in 2010.  For the wells sampled in 2010, the range of TCE concentrations detected in the wells was 1.1 - 1.7 ppb and PCE concentrations ranged from 1.8 - 89 ppb.  Concentrations of PCE are higher nearer the former source areas.  MCL's have not been achieved, however, the 1985 Record of Decision predicted it would take 50 years for the groundwater to be returned to a useable state.  Charlevoix county's Sanitary Code allows the Health Official to deny an application for drinking water well when certain criteria are met including cases where an approved community water system is available.  The Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency believes that no drinking water wells have been permitted in the area.

U.S. EPA worked with the City on incorporating the Superfund site plume into a newer city ordinance restricting groundwater use within certain “impact areas.”  This use restriction is more specific than the local well permitting program.  On July 21, 2008, the City passed Ordinance No. 732 of 2008 to amend Section 2.71(3) of Chapter 22A: City Water Service Exclusive Water Source of Title II of the Code of the City of Charlevoix by revising the legal description of the impact area contained in Section 2.71(3).  Based upon the last full round of groundwater monitoring data collected in 2006 and additional monitoring of certain wells in 2010, the revised impact area incorporates the area of groundwater contamination associated with the Superfund site including the plume area associated with the State designated Charlevoix Municipal Well Field (PCE) Site and the Hooker Cleaners and the Art’s Dry Cleaner sites.

Five-year reviews were conducted for the site to determine the protectiveness of the remedy.  EPA issued the third five-year review for the site on September 23, 2011. 

The interim remedy at Operable Unit (OU) 1 is protective of human health and the environment because the alternate water supply provided by construction of a lake water intake line to the water treatment plant prevents human health exposure to contaminated ground water.

A protectiveness determination for the remedy at OU 2 cannot be made at this time. While exposures to the groundwater pathway are not taking place due to implementation of the alternate water supply required under the OU 1 ROD and ICs required under the OU 2 ROD that prevent the use of contaminated ground water, the remedy at OU 2 includes the expectation that groundwater would be allowed to vent to Lake Michigan and should be returned to a “useable state after 50 years” or by 2035. However, PCE contamination that remains in the soil and groundwater could potentially pose vapor intrusion risks via the indoor air pathway and may result in a longer period of time for groundwater to return to a useable state. Additional evaluation of the source area will be necessary to confirm the determination of the protectiveness of this pathway and whether groundwater will return to useable state within a reasonable period of time. The source area evaluation may be reported in an addendum to this five-year review report.

A site-wide protectiveness determination is also deferred until vapor intrusion risks via the indoor pathway are assessed.

Success Story

The residents of Charlevoix now have a safe, clean, and reliable drinking water supply.

Community Involvement

Public meetings were held on May 22, 1984 and June 27, 1985 at the Charlevoix City Hall.

Property Reuse

The site and adjacent land continue to be used for residential, recreational, commercial and educational purposes.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
matthew ohl (ohl.matthew@epa.gov)
(312) 886-4442

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
dave novak
(312) 886-7478




Site Profile Information

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


Local Navigation

Jump to main content.