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Congressional District # 08


EPA ID# MND000686196
Last Updated: February, 2012

Site Description

The 70-acre 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 Florence 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.

Historic land use at the site included railroad tie treatment, loading and unloading of ties and timbers, timber storage, and several rail lines, some that are still active.  The tie treating plant operated on the property between 1907 and 1985 and treated railroad ties 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 creosote and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Area residents and businesses are connected to city water. No original building currently exist on-site, only cleanup-related structures.

Site Responsibility

The site cleanup is being performed by the potentially responsible party.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently the primary agency overseeing the cleanup, in consultation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).  One portion of the site (a containment unit formerly used to treat contaminated soils) currently is also regulated and overseen by the MPCA under a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit.

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 polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), oil and grease, salts, and phenols.  Soils at the site were also heavily contaminated prior to removal and treatment.

Cleanup Progress

Burlington Northern signed an administrative order on consent (AOC) with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency i(MPCA) n 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 gradient 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 the on-site treatment area.  After a pilot study was completed, Burlington Northern operated the soil treatment area from 1987 to 1994. After treatment, about 14,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were placed in a lined cell onsite which was closed in 1995.  The containment cell currently operates under a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit issued by MPCA. 

The groundwater pumpout system was constructed in 1985 and pumped contaminated groundwater from three wells to a storm sewer.  A pilot groundwater aeration (air injection) system was added in 1992 to augment the pumpout system.  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 alone to control and treat contaminants in groundwater.  

The Superfund program conducts periodic Five-Year Reviews to evaluate whether the remedy remains protective.  The latest Five Year Review, completed in December 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 2011 review also raised issues should be addressed to ensure long-term protection related to soil, groundwater, and the containment unit.  EPA is currently reviewing how the issues are best to be addressed at the site.


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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