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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.

More Contacts

Rosita Clarke-Moreno
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

Brian Kelly
(EPA Removal Program)
On-Scene Coordinator

9311 Groh Road
Grosse Ile, MI 48138-1697

Mary Schafer
Project Manager

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


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.

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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.

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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

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Site history

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.

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Torch Lake Facts

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