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Great Lakes AOCs

About Torch Lake AOC

map showing the state approved boundary of the Torch Lake AOCTorch Lake AOC Boundary MapTorch Lake was designated as an Area of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  The remedial efforts at the Torch Lake Superfund site  have played a large role in removing beneficial use impairments in the AOC.

AOC Boundaries

The Torch Lake Area of Concern is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula within Houghton County on the northwestern shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and on Lake Superior’s southern shore. The region is locally known as the Copper Country. Deposits of native (elemental) copper are found in the Portage Lakes Lava Series, a long narrow bedrock formation which extends from the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula southwest to the Michigan-Wisconsin border covering a distance of over one hundred miles.

Sources of Pollution

Mining and industrial operations of the native copper found in the region's bedrock formations left stamp sands and slags deposited on the landscape surface and in adjacent lakes and streams.

Copper Contamination

Copper-bearing ore on the Keweenaw Peninsula has been a rich source of copper for people for thousands of years. More recently, it is in the waste products from the industrial milling, smelting and leaching operations of the mined ore that has created the present environmental concern. These industrial processes began during the 1840s and continued until all mining and related operations ceased in 1968.

Those processes left stamp sands and slags deposited either on the surface of the surrounding landscape or in adjacent lakes and streams. Portions of the surficial materials eroded into nearby water bodies. In addition to copper, other contaminants of concern in the AOC are heavy metals, PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Beneficial Use Impairments

Beneficial Use Impairments for the Great Lakes AOCs

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Fish tumors or other deformities  - REMOVED 2007


Restoring Torch Lake AOC (timeline)

Torch Lake Superfund Site


The following links exit the site Exit

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

MDEQ has played an integral in executing various restoration projects at Torch Lake.

MDNR has played a significant role in monitoring fish communties in Torch Lake.

Michigan Tech has aided the Superfund program in sampling wildlife monitoring at the Torch Lake AOC.

Torch Lake Public Advisory Council

The advisory council was founded in 1997. In less than one year the group adopted its by-laws, mission statement, goals and objectives, and also incorporated as a tax-exempt, nonprofit Michigan corporation. It has received contributions from local governments, businesses, environmental groups and private individuals to help defray logistical expenses. In addition, TLPAC has been awarded over $24,000 from agency grants and private foundations. The council advises on restoration projects and works to increase education of the lake.