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U.S. EPA REGION 5
CASS COUNTY
CASS LAKE

Congressional District # 08

ST. REGIS PAPER CO.

EPA ID# MND057597940
Last Updated: February, 2012

Site Description

The St. Regis Paper Company (St. Regis) Superfund site occupies 125 acres within the exterior boundaries of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) Indian Reservation in the city of Cass Lake in Cass County, Minnesota.  The St. Regis site is located north of the Chippewa National Forest and west of Pike Bay and Cass Lake.

The St. Regis Paper Company began wood treatment activities at the site in the 1950s while leasing the land from the Great Northern Railroad (now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company).  Lumber was pressure-treated with creosote, pentachlorophenol (PCP), and copper chromium arsenate.  Wastewater from these processes was discharged into a number of disposal ponds located at the site.  Between 1957 and 1960, wastewater and sludges were hauled to a pit within the former city dump of the city of Cass Lake and burned.  The disposal from the ponds occurred almost daily at an estimated rate of 500 gallons per day for a total of 547,500 gallons over the three-year period.  From 1960 to 1975, unknown quantities of sludge were hauled to the city dump pit. The pit, containing the ash and unburned residuals, was eventually covered.

EPA placed the St. Regis site on Superfund's National Priorities List in 1984.  In 1985, Champion International Corporation (Champion) acquired the property through a merger with the St. Regis Paper Company and closed site operations.  A large portion of the former operations area was then deeded to the city of Cass Lake.  Other portions of the site are located on BNSF and Cass Forest Products properties.   Champion International Corporation was acquired by International Paper (IP) in 2000 and IP is the current owner of the former Champion portion of the St. Regis site.

Site Responsibility

The St. Regis site is being addressed through potentially responsible parties' (PRPs) actions under federal enforcement actions.  To date, EPA has identified International Paper, BNSF Railway Co., Cass Forest Products, and the city of Cass Lake as PRPs.  EPA conducts oversight of PRP work along with our support agency partners, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater, soil, and sediment on and in the vicinity of the St. Regis site have been contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and pentachlorophenol (PCP).  Dioxins and furans, impurities in PCP, are also chemicals of concern. 

Cleanup Progress

In 1986, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) signed two Minnesota Enforcement Decision documents which outlined the response actions for each cleanup area at the site.  These areas include the treatment facility, the Cass Lake City Dump Pit, a contaminated soil vault, and the extension of the Cass Lake municipal water system. In 1987, then owner Champion International Corporation (Champion) constructed groundwater extraction wells at both the treatment facility area and the city dump area. The contaminated groundwater is extracted, treated onsite, and then discharged into a channel between Pike Bay and Cass Lake.  An onsite containment vault was constructed at the site which contains 37,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sludge from the wastewater lagoons and 4,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sludge from the city dump pit. Current owner International Paper (IP) has monitored and maintained the treatment system and soil vault since 2000.


As a result of 5-Year Reviews conducted in 1995 and 2000, fieldwork was conducted by EPA in October 2001 to collect data from the site to evaluate whether the response actions remain protective of human health and the environment.  Dioxin, at levels above the Superfund Removal Action Levels, was encountered in shallow soils on the site property. Additional confirmatory and delineation sampling conducted by International Paper was ordered by EPA in August 2003. Removal actions for shallow soil above 1 ppb TEQ Dioxin were conducted during 2004, 2005, and 2006 by International Paper and BNSF Railway Co. under Orders from EPA. EPA also ordered International Paper to conduct a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment. Sampling of soil, house dust, sediment, surface water, plants, invertebrates, and fish, in support of human health and ecological risk assessments was also conducted during FY 2004 by International Paper under EPA Orders.


In 2005, after analysis of the data from the sampling, EPA decided on an interim cleanup approach for dioxin and arsenic contamination in residential settled dust that was above screening levels. Necessary interim cleanup actions included an initial comprehensive cleaning of all area residences with carpet replacement, HEPA vacuum cleaning, wet wiping, steam cleaning soft furniture, and cleaning of draperies and rugs. In addition, supplemental periodic cleaning of homes, clean soil yard cover, and dust suppression to the unpaved roads was required. In 2006, under an Order from EPA, International Paper conducted all initial cleanings, the yard work, dust suppression, and continues the periodic house cleanings. Periodic cleanings are required until final cleanup actions are completed.


In November 2005, International Paper delivered to EPA the first version of the human health and ecological risk assessment. In 2008, EPA approved the human health portion of the risk assessment and concluded that there are unacceptable risks to human health and the environment from contaminated soil at the Site. An Administrative Order on Consent for a Feasibility Study to develop remedial alternatives for soil clean up at the site was signed by EPA and the PRPs in September 2008.  The Feasibility Study Report was submitted by the potentially responsible parties in April 2011.  EPA developed a preferred alternative remedy for contaminated soil and presented it to its agency partners and the community in a Proposed Plan. EPA received many comments opposed to the Proposed Plan, including comments from its support agency partners, residents of the Cass Lake area, and others. The support agency partners asked that EPA delay issuing the Record of Decision for the Site in order to discuss ways in which their concerns might be addressed.

Since the close of the public comment period, EPA has formed a soil technical workgroup that includes representatives from MPCA, LLBO, Minnesota Department of Health, and the four PRPs. The workgroup will develop a plan to collect additional data on soil contamination that may support development of new or revised remedial alternatives.

A 2005 Five Year Review of the Site also concluded that additional information was needed to determine whether the groundwater remedial actions were protective of human health and the environment. In response, IP has drilled new soil borings and monitoring wells in mid-2006 and conducted a site-wide pumping test in December 2006. The borings revealed that a tarry liquid was present in the City Dump plume. The new data also raised questions regarding how effectively the light contaminants were being contained by the extraction well system of the City Dump. During the winter of 2007-08, International Paper began an investigation of these issues by conducting borings of the area and completing additional monitoring wells. That investigation continued into 2009. IP also conducted an investigation near ground water wells owned and operated by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to determine the effectiveness of the till between the upper aquifer and the lower aquifer from which the Band takes drinking water. IP is finalizing its results of these investigations, with EPA oversight. Finally, in response to questions raised during evaluations the 2009 Annual Report, IP will be evaluating contaminant plume capture on the eastern edge of OU1 within both the shallow and deep aquifers. Once all groundwater investigations are complete, IP will generate a new ground water model under the oversight of the EPA and its partners to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the groundwater extraction and treatment system.

Success Story

During the past 8 years, the level of effort on this site has been very high from EPA, State and Tribal regulators, the local community, and the potentially responsible parties.  Removal actions and interim remedial actions have been taken to reduce health risks to the local residents while work continues on crafting a final cleanup remedy. 

Community Involvement

EPA held a public hearing in June 2011 regarding the proposed options for the final soils cleanup action.  Plans for a newsletter and other ongoing communications with the public are being developed.

Congressional Interest

Congressman James Oberstar and Senator Klobuchar have maintained an interest in the St. Regis site.  State Representative John Persell is the Superfund Coordinator for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Property Reuse

The city of Cass Lake zoned the St. Regis site property as commercial/industrial in January 2006.  The surrounding residential properties are zoned residential.  

Contacts

Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
leslie patterson (patterson.leslie@epa.gov)
(312) 886-4904

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

Aliases

WHEELERS DIV
ST REGIS PAPER CO

 

Site Profile Information

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

 


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