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Background

The Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront site sits on the shore of Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior, in northern Wisconsin. The site actually is made up of several properties including those owned by Northern States Power Company of Wisconsin (d/b/a Xcel Energy), Canadian National Railroad and City of Ashland. Ten acres of contaminated lake sediment just off-shore is also part of the Superfund site. Ground water underlying the site and an adjacent residential area is contaminated, as is soil at 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 ground water. Contaminants found in sediment, ground water, soil and a buried ravine include tar, oil and other waste consisting of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and metals.

Because ground water 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.

Beginning 1994, various parties including Wisconsin DNR, NSP Wisconsin and EPA, have carried out or overseen environmental investigations of the site. Interim cleanup work has included removing contaminated material from the ravine and pumping out and treating contaminated ground water. NSP Wisconsin, under a 2003 agreement with EPA, has completed a series of reports, making up what is known in Superfund as a remedial investigation. These reports document the results of field investigations, detail the type and extent of contamination and assess the risk to human health and the environment. NSP Wisconsin will now prepare and submit a feasibility study, which will evaluate possible cleanup options. EPA and DNR are holding public information sessions to discuss the RI report and begin talking with community members about possible cleanup options.

More information about the history of the site and agency involvement can be found in A History of the Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront Site (PDF)Exit EPA Disclaimer (2pp, 63K, About PDF ) February 2005 fact sheet.


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