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EPA Tells PRPs to Develop Cleanup Plan for St. Regis Superfund Site

Contact Information

Community Involvement Coordinator
Don de Blasio (deblasio.don@epa.gov)
312-886-4360 or 800-621-8431, ext. 64360

Remedial Project Manager
Tim Drexler (drexler.timothy@epa.gov)


(where to view written records)

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
Division of Resource Management
6350 Highway 2 NW
Cass Lake, MN

Cass Lake City Clerk's office
332 Second St. NW
Cass Lake, MN

Cass Lake Library
223 Cedar Ave.
Cass Lake, MN

Leech Lake Tribal College
113 Balsam Ave.
Cass Lake, MN

Bemidji State University Library
1501 Birchmont Drive NE
Bemidji, MN

On the Web:

May 2008

Public Meeting June 4, 2008

EPA will host a public meeting to update the community on the site.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
6:30 pm

Cass Lake-Bena Elementary School
15 4th Street NW
Cass Lake, MN

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has notified potentially responsible parties they must develop options to permanently reduce health risks at the St. Regis Superfund site in Cass Lake. The document containing the cleanup options is called a feasibility study. The PRPs have 60 days to negotiate with EPA and its partners, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, to fund or conduct the feasibility study. The PRPs are International Paper, BNSF Railway Co., Cass Forest Products and the city of Cass Lake.

Although an assessment to determine potential risk to people and the environment is not final, EPA feels enough information has been collected and evaluated to begin work on addressing the problem. The pollutants of concern at the St. Regis site are pentachlorophenol, dioxin and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Some health risks to more than 30 families near the site were identified. A 2005 cleanup plan, known as an "interim record of decision," called for the following to address these risks:

International Paper completed the initial housecleaning, soil cover and the first application of dust suppressant in 2006. Periodic housecleaning and dustsuppressant applications continue.

EPA has determined that permanent cleanup options must be developed to address people's exposure to soil contaminated by the former wood treatment facility. In addition, worms and other invertebrates in a small area near the onsite containment vault were found to be at risk from contaminated soil and sediment (mud). A plan to address that risk must also be developed. Finally, the Fox Creek area must also be evaluated to see if a cleanup plan is needed.

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Continuing operations and cleanup

Improvements and investigations continue regarding the extraction and monitoring system for ground water (underground supplies of fresh water). In 2006, IP drilled additional wells and borings to improve the system. Monitoring requirements were updated, and they include more frequent sampling and testing for additional contaminants that are of concern to the tribe and state under their current water quality standards.

In 2006 with EPA oversight, IP completed a system-wide pumping test of 72 monitoring wells and all 13 extraction wells. During January and February 2008, IP carried out more investigations that resulted in new monitoring wells being added in the former Cass Lake city dump. The work was conducted because of the discovery of a thick tar plume in addition to a light plume already known to exist. Later this year IP will test water wells belonging to the Leech Lake Band. After the testing, the new information will be used to develop computer models to evaluate the effectiveness of the ground-water extraction and monitoring system.

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Removal work

IP and BNSF removal actions at the former St. Regis wood treatment facility are complete. Those activities included the removal of 3,394 tons of contaminated soil from the site by IP in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, IP installed a gravel cover and a fence to prevent access to a commercial portion of the site. BNSF removed an additional 680 tons of contaminated soil from its property in 2006.

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Next steps

The feasibility study will result in a list of cleanup options. In consultation with the Leech Lake Band and MPCA, EPA will pick a preferred cleanup plan from those options and open the process to public comment. After a period of review and comment, EPA will make a final cleanup choice in a document called "record of decision." Plans to carry out that decision will then be developed so the cleanup can begin.

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History and background

The St. Regis site, in the city of Cass Lake, is within the boundaries of the Leech Lake Band's reservation. It includes a former wood treatment plant, which operated from 1958 until 1984, and affected adjacent areas.

St. Regis was listed on the National Priorities List in 1984, making it eligible for cleanup under EPA's Superfund program.

The site has four sections:

MPCA originally had the lead for site cleanup. During the late 1980s, MPCA required then-owner Champion Paper Co. to conduct the following cleanup actions:

In 1994 site responsibility transferred to EPA at the request of the Leech Lake Band.

In 2001 and 2003, soil sampling conducted after a major review of the site uncovered new problems with dioxin concentrations. Dioxin levels in shallow soil on the site exceeded EPA's 1998 dioxin policy for residential limits of 1,000 parts per trillion. In 2004, EPA ordered IP to conduct a human health and ecological risk assessment. The company sampled for contaminated dust in residences as a part of the risk assessment. The results showed an increased risk to residents near the site. In response, IP agreed to clean up contaminated dust in nearby residences.

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