Congressional District # 08
ST. REGIS PAPER CO.EPA ID# MND057597940
Last Updated: August, 2013
The St. Regis Paper Company (St. Regis) Superfund site occupies 125 acres within the exterior boundaries of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) Indian Reservation in the city of Cass Lake in Cass County, Minnesota. The St. Regis site is located north of the Chippewa National Forest and west of Pike Bay and Cass Lake.
The St. Regis Paper Company began wood treatment activities at the site in the 1950s while leasing the land from the Great Northern Railroad (now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company). Lumber was pressure-treated with creosote, pentachlorophenol (PCP), and copper chromium arsenate. Wastewater from these processes was discharged into a number of disposal ponds located at the site. Between 1957 and 1960, wastewater and sludges were hauled to a pit within the former city dump of the city of Cass Lake and burned. The disposal from the ponds occurred almost daily at an estimated rate of 500 gallons per day for a total of 547,500 gallons over the three-year period. From 1960 to 1975, unknown quantities of sludge were hauled to the city dump pit. The pit, containing the ash and unburned residuals, was eventually covered.
EPA placed the St. Regis site on the Superfund National Priorities List in 1984. In 1985, Champion International Corporation (Champion) acquired the property through a merger with the St. Regis Paper Company and closed site operations. A large portion of the former operations area was then deeded to the city of Cass Lake. Other portions of the site are located on BNSF and Cass Forest Products properties. Champion International Corporation was acquired by International Paper (IP) in 2000 and IP is the current owner of the former Champion portion of the St. Regis site.
Site ResponsibilityThe St. Regis site is being addressed through potentially responsible parties' (PRPs) actions under state and federal oversight. EPA conducts oversight of PRP work along with our support agency partners, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Threats and ContaminantsGroundwater, soil, and sediment on and in the vicinity of the St. Regis site have been contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and pentachlorophenol (PCP). Dioxins and furans, impurities in PCP, are also chemicals of concern.
In 1986, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) signed two Minnesota Enforcement Decision documents which outlined the response actions for each cleanup area at the site. These areas include the treatment facility, the Cass Lake City Dump Pit, a contaminated soil vault, and the extension of the Cass Lake municipal water system. In 1987, then owner Champion International Corporation (Champion) constructed groundwater extraction wells at both the treatment facility area and the city dump area. The contaminated groundwater is extracted, treated on site, and then discharged into a channel between Pike Bay and Cass Lake. An on-site containment vault was constructed to contain 37,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sludge from the wastewater lagoons and 4,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sludge from the city dump pit. Current owner International Paper (IP) has monitored and maintained the treatment system and soil vault since 2000.
As a result of Five-Year Reviews conducted in 1995 and 2000, fieldwork was conducted by EPA in October 2001 to collect data from the site to evaluate whether the response actions remained protective of human health and the environment. Dioxin, at levels above the Superfund Removal Action Levels, was encountered in shallow soils on the site property. Additional confirmatory and delineation sampling conducted by International Paper was ordered by EPA in August 2003. Removal actions for shallow soil above 1 ppb TEQ Dioxin were conducted during 2004, 2005, and 2006 by International Paper and BNSF Railway Co. under Orders from EPA. EPA also ordered International Paper to conduct a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment. Sampling of soil, house dust, sediment, surface water, plants, invertebrates, and fish, in support of human health and ecological risk assessments was also conducted during FY 2004 by International Paper under EPA Orders.
In 2005, after analysis of the data from the sampling, EPA decided on an interim cleanup approach for dioxin and arsenic contamination in residential settled dust that was above screening levels. Necessary interim cleanup actions included an initial comprehensive cleaning of all area residences with carpet replacement, HEPA vacuum cleaning, wet wiping, steam cleaning soft furniture, and cleaning of draperies and rugs. In addition, supplemental periodic cleaning of homes, clean soil yard cover, and dust suppression to the unpaved roads was required. In 2006, under an Order from EPA, International Paper conducted all initial cleanings, the yard work, dust suppression, and continues the periodic house cleanings. Periodic cleanings are required until final cleanup actions are completed.
In November 2005, International Paper delivered to EPA the first version of the human health and ecological risk assessment. In 2008, EPA approved the human health portion of the risk assessment and concluded that there are unacceptable risks to human health and the environment from contaminated soil at the Site. An Administrative Order on Consent for a Feasibility Study to develop remedial alternatives for soil clean up at the site was signed by EPA and the PRPs in September 2008. EPA approved the Feasibility Study Report in April 2011 and announced a preferred remedy for contaminated soil in a Proposed Plan in June 2011. EPA’s agency partners and many residents of the Cass Lake area opposed the preferred remedy, and the agency partners asked EPA to require additional soil sampling before selecting a remedy. In early 2012 EPA formed a soil technical workgroup that includes representatives from MPCA, LLBO, Minnesota Department of Health, and the four PRPs. The workgroup developed and implemented a plan to collect additional soil data. EPA is working with its agency partners and the PRPs to revise the Feasibility Study by the end of 2013, and EPA will issue a new proposed plan or a ROD by April 2014.
A 2005 Five Year Review report also concluded that additional information was needed to determine whether the groundwater remedial actions were protective of human health and the environment. In 2006 IP drilled new soil borings and monitoring wells and conducted a site-wide pumping test. The investigation found that a tarry liquid was present in the City Dump plume and raised questions about the effectiveness of the extraction system at containing the light contaminants. IP also conducted an investigation near ground water wells owned and operated by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to determine the effectiveness of the till between the upper aquifer and the lower aquifer from which the Band takes drinking water.
IP drilled additional borings and monitoring wells during the winter of 2007-08 and again in 2009. The extent of the tarry liquid has been defined, but IP collected additional groundwater and soil samples in the winter of 2012-2013 to define the extent of the dissolved contaminant plume at the City Dump burn pit. Finally, in response to questions raised during evaluations the 2009 Annual Report, IP took groundwater samples on the eastern edge of OU1 in both the shallow and deep aquifers to evaluate contaminant plume capture in this area. IP is also generating a new ground water model under the oversight of EPA and its partners to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the groundwater extraction and treatment system.
Success StoryDuring the past 9 years, the level of effort on this site has been very high from EPA, State and Tribal regulators, the local community, and the potentially responsible parties. Removal actions and interim remedial actions have been taken to reduce health risks to the local residents while work continues on crafting a final cleanup remedy.
Community InvolvementEPA held a public hearing in July 2012 regarding the additional sampling that will be done before a final soil cleanup action is selected. The first issue of a bi- or tri-annual newsletter and other ongoing communications with the public are being developed.
Congressional InterestCongressman James Oberstar and Senator Klobuchar have maintained an interest in the St. Regis site. State Representative John Persell is the Superfund Coordinator for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Staff from Senator Al Franken’s office requested information on the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment in November 2012, and requested additional information in August 2013.
The city of Cass Lake zoned the St. Regis site property as commercial/industrial in January 2006. The surrounding residential properties are zoned residential. In 2012, Cass Lake announced a draft plan to redevelop the city-owned property on the site. The PRPs have discussed the possibility of coordinating redevelopment with the soil remedy.
EPA held a public hearing in July 2012 regarding the additional sampling that will be done before a final soil cleanup action is selected. EPA sent the first issue of a bi-annual newsletter in March 2013.
ContactsRemedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
leslie patterson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
Don De Blasio
ST REGIS PAPER CO