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Congressional District # 01


EPA ID# MID980678627
Last Updated: March, 2015

Site Description

The Cannelton Industries, Inc. ("Cannelton") Superfund site covers 75 acres along the St. Marys River in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan.  The Northwestern Leather Company had operated a tannery and processed animal hides at the Cannelton site from 1900 to 1958.  Waste materials from the tannery operations were discharged through three main drains to a low-lying shoreline area.  Barrels and general wastes were burned and disposed of along the river. In 1958, a fire damaged many of the tannery buildings, nearly all of which have since been torn down.  The site has been unused since the tannery burned in 1958 and is presently vacant. A portion of the site is located within the 100-year flood plain of the St. Mary's River.  Soils, sediments, and surface water in the St. Marys River were contaminated with heavy metals, including chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury.

Approximately 14,700 people live in Sault Sainte Marie. The current land use surrounding the site is residential and light industrial. There are approximately 400 single-family residences located within one-half mile of the site boundary. The former McKinley Elementary School, now the McKinley Manor Assisted Living facility, is located 100 feet south of the western portion of the site. The nearby residences and facilities are connected to the city's municipal water system. 

EPA placed the Cannelton site on the National Priorities List (NPL) on August 30, 1990.

Site Responsibility

The Cannelton site has been addressed through potentially responsible party (PRP) actions under federal and state oversight. 

Threats and Contaminants

Soils, sediments, and surface water in the St. Marys River were contaminated with heavy metals, including chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. Remaining sediments on site potentially could be a concern if contaminants are taken up by microorganisms into the food chain.  If pollutants bioaccumulate in fish, they may pose a health hazard if eaten. 

Cleanup Progress

Immediate threats at the site have been addressed through various removal actions. In 1988, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) excavated five trenches to decrease the potential for additional fires; the potentially responsible party (PRP) who owns the property, Cannelton Industries, Inc. (Cannelton), constructed a chain-link fence to limit access to a portion of the property. In 1989, under a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) from EPA, Cannelton stabilized the shoreline to prevent erosion from the site. In 1991, under an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC), Cannelton completed further stabilization and security actions, including fencing a greater area of the site, repairing existing fences, and further stabilizing the shoreline area. In 1994, under another AOC, Cannelton completed a full shoreline stabilization along the entire site.

Under an AOC, Cannelton completed the remedial design (RD) as well as additional studies needed for the site.  These additional studies included soil leaching tests, bioaccumulation studies, and benthic/sediment toxicity studies.  The results of these studies showed that there are no leaching contaminants and found low toxicity to benthic organisms and no bioaccumulation of contaminants.  The RD was completed in December 1998.  The response action was to excavate and dispose of off site approximately 50,000 cubic yards of contaminated waste and soils and to maintain shoreline stabilization to prevent erosion into St. Marys River. 

Cannelton began Remedial Action (RA) construction activities under a UAO on June 8, 1999, when a pre-construction meeting took place.  RA activities were completed in September 1999.  A Preliminary Close Out Report/Construction Completion was completed on September 27, 1999. A final inspection took place on October 19, 1999. A Remedial Action Completion Report was prepared by the PRP and submitted to EPA in December 1999.  

Long-term monitoring of sediments, soil and surface water is taking place to ensure protectiveness of the remedy.  Monitoring activities began in spring 2000.  A baseline round of biomonitoring took place in 1997 and a second round of biomonitoring took place between July and September 2000. 

An Interim Remedial Action Report was completed in July 2002. As required under statute, five-year reviews (FYRs) are performed to assess remedy protectiveness.  The first FYR was completed on August 20, 2004. The FYR report showed that the remedy was protective over the short term, and noted that long-term protectiveness would be verified upon application of institutional controls (ICs) and completion of additional monitoring.

Sediment dredging in Tannery Bay was proposed as an additional action under EPA's Great Lakes Legacy Act in 2005-2006. The dredging project, which began in fall 2006 with the removal of 8,000 cubic yards of sediment, involved the removal of 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment and approximately 500,000 pounds of chromium and 25 pounds of mercury from the bay and nearby wetlands.  Dredging activities were completed in August 2007.  

Surface water samples collected in 2008 showed that levels of all site-related COCs, namely arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury, were well below their respective cleanup criteria with the exception of a sample from Long Pond with a mercury concentration of 1.4 nanograms-per-liter (ng/L), nominally above the cleanup criterion of 1.3 ng/L. Fifteen sediment locations were also sampled in 2008 for total chromium, mercury, and percent solids. The results showed that the reported concentrations for total chromium ranged from 63.5 to 1,440 mg/kg in the dredged areas, well below the site cleanup criteria of 2,500 mg/kg for total chromium. The mercury levels were either nondetect or below the laboratory reporting limit—also below the site cleanup criteria of 0.5 mg/kg for mercury.

EPA completed the second FYR report on August 11, 2009. The results showed that while the remedy is protective over the short term, long-term protectiveness requires continued compliance with future site-use restrictions to assure that the remedy continues to function as intended.  By 2016, EPA plans to complete a Final Close Out Report (FCOR) to document the completion of the remedy. The FCOR is required before EPA can delete the Cannelton site from the NPL. 

EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) conducted a FYR site inspection on August 20-21, 2013 and a follow up wetlands inspection on September 17, 2013. The FYR was completed on August 8, 2014. The review indicated that the remedy is functioning as intended and remains protective of human health and the environment and is expected to continue as such. Subsequent sediment and surface water sampling in 2014 showed mercury exceedances in the southwest corner of Tannery Bay (1.5 ng/L) and in Long Pond (16 ng/L). In sediment, chromium was detected at 2,600 mg/kg. A review of the historical trends for all site-related COCs indicated that levels have generally declined over time. Based on the data, EPA is reviewing the current monitoring requirements and protocols to determine the need for monitoring revisions in the 2008 Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Plan.


Property Reuse

There is no property reuse planned at this time. The MDEQ, the PRP, and the city of Sault Sainte Marie signed a restrictive covenant and easement for the site property, which was recorded by the Chippewa County Register of Deeds on April 17, 2013. The covenant will ensure the protection of the engineered remedy, restrict groundwater use, and ensure the continued management of contaminated materials on the property. EPA subsequently issued a Site-wide Ready for Reuse (SWRAU) determination on May 9, 2013.  SWRAU signifies that: 1) all cleanup goals in the ROD or other decision documents have been achieved for any media that may affect current and reasonably anticipated future land uses; and, 2) all ICs or other controls required in the ROD or identified as part of the response action to help ensure long-term protection have been put in place. The Cannelton Site can now be redeveloped in a manner that is consistent with the restrictive covenant.  


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
sheila sullivan (sullivan.sheila@epa.gov)
(312) 886-5251

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
susan pastor
(312) 353-1325




Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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