Jump to main content.


Congressional District # 01


EPA ID# MID980678627
Last Updated: March, 2012

Site Description

The Cannelton Industries, Inc. ("Cannelton") site covers 75 acres along the St. Mary's River in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan.  The Northwestern Leather Company 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. Mary's 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 McKinley Elementary School is located 100 feet south of the western portion of the site and is attended by approximately 350 students. The nearby residences and the school are connected to the city's municipal water system. 

Site Responsibility

This 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. Mary's River were contaminated with heavy metals, including chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. Remaining sediments onsite 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 mitigated 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), 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 offsite approximately 50,000 cubic yards of contaminated waste and soils and to maintain shoreline stabilization to prevent erosion into St. Mary's 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 are performed to assess remedy protectiveness.  The first five-year review was completed on August 20, 2004. The five-year review results showed the remedy to be protective in the short term, and noted that long-term protectiveness would be verified upon completion of institutional controls and 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 the fall of 2006 with the removal of 8,000 cubic yards of sediments, involved the removal of 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments 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 with the removal of 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments.  

The second five-year review was completed on August 11, 2009. The five-year review results showed that the remedy is protective in the short term. Long-term protectiveness at the Cannelton site requires continued compliance with use restrictions to assure that the remedy continues to function as intended. The next five-year review is due by August 11, 2014.

EPA is seeking to delist the site from the National Priorities List.

Property Reuse

There is no property reuse planned at this time. The Cannelton site can be redeveloped and turned to productive use when the application of appropriate institutional controls has been confirmed.


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

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
Don De Blasio
(312) 886-4360




Site Profile Information

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


Local Navigation

Jump to main content.