Environmental Work Continues at Torch Lake Sites
EPA goes live on local radio
EPA and MDEQ will be on two separate live radio programs in the Hancock area on Tuesday, April 15. The programs will air at 7 a.m. on WMPL 920 AM and at noon on WCCY 1400 AM. The broadcasts will include an update on current and future work in the immediate area this spring and summer.
The public is invited to listen and call in questions during each of the programs. Call-in numbers will be announced during the beginning of each program.
For more information either on the radio programs or the Torch Lake project in general contact Community Involvement Coordinator Dave Novak.
Remedial Project Manager
EPA Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604-3590
Chicago office toll-free: 800-621-8431, Ext. 6-7251, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., weekdays
(EPA Removal Program)
9311 Groh Road
Grosse Ile, MI 48138-1697
Remediation and Redevelopment Division
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 30426
Lansing, MI 48909
Torch Lake/Quincy Smelter
Franklin Township, Michigan April 2008
- Quincy Smelter historic site
- Renewed efforts to reach the public
- Site History
- Torch Lake Facts
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its state, local and federal partners will continue environmental investigations and cleanup work this spring and summer around the Torch Lake Superfund site. Because of decreasing water levels in the area, hazardous lead material was exposed and removed from the Lake Linden Beach shoreline last year. Additional work around the lake to trace the source of the lead is ongoing.
Other areas along the shoreline southward were also exposed, and additional testing was done to see if any other hazards were missed. Similar sampling and testing will continue this spring. EPA also conducted a regularly scheduled review of the entire Torch Lake Superfund project to see if the cleanup measures taken in previous years are functioning as planned.
Quincy Smelter historic site
EPA continues to work with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, National Park Service and Franklin Township in discussing what should happen next at the Quincy Smelter site. EPA has determined additional work is needed to prevent erosion of stamp sand and slag materials into the lake. There is also a strong local desire to rehabilitate and preserve the immediate area for a national park.
In 2004 EPA removed hazardous, chemical-containing drums, tanks, vats and small containers from the buildings there. In addition, friable asbestoscontaining material was found in and around most buildings. Asbestos can cause cancer, and friable asbestos is the most dangerous kind because it easily reduces to fibers or fine particles that can become airborne and be inhaled by people. You may remember the Hancock-Ripley recreational trail was closed for safety reasons while asbestos found there was removed. Perimeter fences were installed to limit access to the smelter buildings for safety and health reasons, and the trail reopened following completion of the cleanup work.
Work at the Quincy Smelter site this spring and summer will focus on removing bulk friable asbestos within the buildings.
Not directly related to the asbestos removal is more work on stabilizing the shoreline next to the smelter. Franklin Township and NPS have agreed the stamp sand surrounding the smelter are vulnerable to erosion and should be covered with vegetation as was done to other stamp sand in the area. EPA is now amending an interagency agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to design and perform the latest stamp sand covering work at the smelter. As required under the Superfund law, EPA will also prepare a "record of decision amendment" and hold a public meeting to discuss these latest changes to the final Torch Lake Superfund site cleanup. The release of the amendment and public meeting will be advertised and publicized in another mailing sent to you separately when that process is ready. As in past cleanup activities, EPA will use local contractors for as much of the work as possible.
Renewed efforts to reach the public
Last fall EPA's community involvement coordinator visited Torch Lake communities to assess the Agency's efforts at reaching area residents and businesses with information.
During the surveys we found that as work continues or is begun in certain areas, you wanted to hear this directly from us. In the past we have relied mostly on occasional fact sheets mailed to a large number of you. We have also relied on the local newspaper and television or local public interest groups to get the word out.
While we are not abandoning these efforts, we are increasing our exposure and working with individual townships, village/town halls and area post offices to reach those affected most directly. We have reviewed our original mailing list, sent information directly to the local officials and will participate in live local radio programs to keep you up-to-date (see box on Page 1).
We also want you to let us know how we are doing in communicating with you. Let Dave Novak know by contacting him directly (see box on page 1).
Local organizations are also providing feedback. The Torch Lake Public Action Council is providing input to government agencies working on the cleanup and restoration
Since 1988 EPA and MDEQ have covered and planted vegetation on more than 800 acres of copper stamp sand tailings in and around the Torch Lake area. Several locations were cleaned up under a long-term Superfund program. Complicated sites such as Torch Lake are divided into smaller parts called operable units or OUs. OU1 includes Lake Linden, Hubbell/Tamarack City and Mason Sands on the western shore of Torch Lake. OU3 included Calumet Lake, North Entry, Dollar Bay, Boston Pond, Michigan Smelter, Isle Royale Sands, Point Mills and Scales Creek.
Quincy Smelter, while technically part of OU3, was not included in the cleanup work done at the other portions of the site. A short-term cleanup called a removal action did occur at the smelter during 2005 to dispose of abandoned drums and asbestos. As previously mentioned, during 2007 an emergency or "time critical" removal took place at the Lake Linden Beach to clean up high levels of lead found in the sediment exposed during the summer's low water levels. Time critical projects are done when an immediate and substantial threat to human health and the environment is found.
The long-term cleanup appears to be working as intended to reduce risks associated with direct contact of inhalation of contaminates in the tailings. Erosion has been controlled and while the lake bottom is taking some time to improve, additional data collection and monitoring is needed.
Several of the cleanup areas were restored enough that EPA "delisted" or removed them from the Superfund National Priorities List. Reviews are done every five years at the various locations to determine whether the cleanup work continues to protect human health and the environment. The most recent of these reviews indicates that while the environmental work performed on the areas is controlling stamp sand erosion, additional monitoring must be done to determine if more cleanup is needed. That means EPA and MDEQ will be involved in the Torch Lake site for the foreseeable future.
Torch Lake Facts
- Copper was mined, milled and smelted in the Torch Lake area for more than 100 years.
- Milling wastes, mill tailings (stamp sand) and other mining debris were deposited into Torch Lake, which also served as the transportation waterway.
- It is estimated about 200 million tons of tailings were dumped into Torch Lake between 1868 and 1968, filling at least 20 percent of the lake's original volume.
- The stamp sand deposited in the lake and on the shoreline were dredged up during the early 1900s and were reprocessed with flotation chemicals to reclaim copper. The stamp sand and much of the flotation chemicals were then returned to the lake and along the shoreline.
- Other wastes were deposited in and along the Torch Lake shoreline including mine wastewater, leaching chemicals, explosive residues and by-products.
- In 1972, an estimated 27,000 gallons of cupric ammonium carbonate were released into the lake from storage vats. Barrels have also been found along the shoreline of the lake.
- The International Joint Commission Water Quality Board designated Torch Lake as a Great Lakes Area of Concern in 1983. An AOC is a severely degraded geographic area within the Great Lakes Basin.
- The site was placed on the National Priorities List - a roster of the nation's most hazardous waste sites eligible for cleanup under EPA's Superfund program - in June 1986.
- By the fall of 2004, 825 acres of stamp sand and slag were addressed by EPA. This included stamp sand along the western shore of Torch Lake (Lake Linden, Hubbell/Tamarack City, Mason), Dollar Bay, Point Mills, Calumet Lake, Boston Pond and Michigan Smelter. These areas were leveled and graded, waterways and diversions were constructed, 6 inches of sandy loam was laid down and seeded, and large rock was placed on shorelines for erosion protection. The soil and vegetation also retarded erosion and sustained wildlife.
- A partial NPL "delisting" of the Lake Linden portion of the site and all of Operable Unit 2 (sediment, surface water, and ground water) was finalized in April 2002. The partial delisting of the Hubbell Tamarack City portion of the site was finalized in 2004. Delisting removes hazardous waste sites from the NPL.
- The Quincy Smelter area is part of the Quincy Mining Company Historic District and was proposed as a National Historic Park. Because the slag pile located in the Quincy Smelter area (about 25 acres) was proposed to be developed as part of this national park, no active cleanup or restoration has been done to date.
- A pilot project in 2003 on Gull Island planted 1,500 fast-growing plants on the island to see if they would thrive without a clean soil cover. They did, so in 2004 an additional 20,000 plants were placed there.
- Students from five area high schools assisted in a unique outreach and monitoring program at the sites. The science students charted bird and plant diversity and conducted soil fertility studies. Their data will become part of the official scientific record of the Torch Lake project.
- Most work done on the Torch Lake project was completed with local contractors and workers.