The Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront site sits on the shore of Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior, in northern Wisconsin. The site is made up of several properties including those owned by Northern States Power Co. of Wisconsin (d/b/a Xcel Energy), Canadian National Railroad and the city of Ashland. Ten acres of contaminated lake sediment just off-shore are also part of the site.
The near-shore portion of the site was formed by the placement of fill consisting of sawdust, wood and wood waste; demolition debris; and other waste materials. A former manufactured gas plant sits atop a bluff and now houses a system to pump out and treat oil and tar from underlying groundwater. Contaminants found in sediment, groundwater, soil and a buried ravine include tar, oil and other waste consisting of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and metals. Soil, groundwater, and an adjacent residential area are contaminated.
Because groundwater is contaminated at levels of health concern, two artesian wells have been closed as a precautionary measure. Access to a portion of the bay and shore is restricted to boats and swimmers because when sediment is agitated, oil and tar can be released causing a slick to form. The contaminants can cause skin irritation and increased sensitivity to the sun.
Cleanup by NSP Wisconsin so far has included removing contaminated material from the ravine and pumping out and treating contaminated groundwater. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and EPA are overseeing the work.