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Torch Lake Superfund Site

Site Information
Contact Information

Community Involvement Coordinator
Dave Novak (novak.dave@epa.gov)
312-886-7478 or 800-621-8431, ext. 67478

Remedial Project Manager
Nefertiti DiCosmo
(dicosmo.nefertiti@epa.gov)
312-886-6148 or 800-621-8431, ext. 66148

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Project Manager
Robert Delaney
(delaneyr@michigan.gov)
517-373-7406

NPL Deletion Process Manager
Gladys Beard (beard.gladys@epa.gov)
312-886-7253 or 800-621-8431, ext. 67253

Repositories

(where to view written records)

EPA Region 5 Record Center,
7th Floor, 77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL

Lake Linden/Hubbell Public Library
601 Calumet St.
Lake Linden, MI

Portage Lake District Library
58 Huron St.
Houghton, MI

Background

The Torch Lake site is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Houghton County, Michigan. Copper mining activities in the area from the 1890s until 1969 produced mill tailings that contaminated the lake sediments and shoreline.

Site Updates | News Releases | Fact Sheets || Five-Year Reviews || Public Meetings


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Site Updates

November 2013

The Quincy Smelter portion of the Torch Lake Superfund site in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, has been deleted from the National Priorities List.  The announcement occurred at an event in Houghton, Michigan directly across the Keweenaw waterway from the historic smelter in Franklin Township.  Torch Lake was listed as a Superfund site in 1986.  An estimated 200 million tons of tailings -- also known as copper stamp sands –- were dumped in and around Torch Lake during a century of copper milling and smelting operations from 1868 to 1968.  Originally built by the Quincy Mining Co. in 1898, the Quincy Smelter has historic significance as the last standing copper smelter of its kind. The National Park Service is exploring various alternatives for the preservation and interpretation of the site.  The Superfund law allows EPA to delete portions of Superfund sites on the National Priorities List when cleanup goals have been met and a location is ready for redevelopment and reuse.

August 2013

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 is proposing to remove two parcels of land from the Torch Lake Superfund site in a process called “deletion.” It means if approved these parcels will no longer be on the National Priorities List or NPL. The Superfund law allows for deletion of cleaned up sections even if the site as a whole cannot be delisted from the NPL at this time. These parcels were areas where copper tailings were dumped and are the Quincy Smelter site and the Calumet Lake site. The parcels are contained within the wide-ranging Torch Lake Superfund site. These tailings are also known as stamp sand or slag. The Quincy Smelter site contains an actual historical smelter building and copper slag piles.

Deletion of the two locations from the Superfund list would represent a positive development for the Torch Lake area, according to EPA officials. It shows signs of progress at the site because cleanup goals have been met and humans and wildlife are being protected from exposure to pollutants. Deletion will also benefit the area because people may be living on some parts of the parcels. Removing these areas from the NPL will generally boost property values and facilitate redevelopment and reuse.

EPA along with state partner Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have determined the partial deletions of Quincy Smelter site and Calumet Lake from OU 3, are an appropriate action to take at this time. An OU is an “operable unit.” Complex Superfund sites such as Torch Lake are often divided into more manageable smaller parts. EPA and MDEQ decided these parcels met the criteria for deletion. Instead of waiting for the entire Torch Lake site to be delisted from Superfund, the agencies determined the deletion process would demonstrate cleanup progress and make these sections more attractive for reuse.

Deletion does not mean EPA will have nothing further to do with the parcels. The Agency will be reviewing the parcels every five years to make sure the cleanup continues to protect human health and the environment. And, if it becomes necessary, EPA can perform further cleanup actions on the parcels and even relist them.

Other partial deletions occurred at Torch Lake -- OU2 and Lake Linden were deleted from the NPL in 2002, and Hubbell/Tamarack City was deleted in 2004. In 2012 the EPA deleted Michigan Smelter Tailings, Isle Royale Tailings and Mason Tailings from the NPL.

The Agency will carefully review and consider information provided by the public during the 30-day comment period which runs from August 16, 2013, through September 16, 2013. If no serious adverse comments are received, the EPA Region 5 Administrator will then submit a “Final Notice of Deletion” for publication in the Federal Register to make the deletions official.

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