Mining waste open house offers info, answers questions

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Amy Keranen, project manager with the Department of Environmental Quality, talks to Michigan Technological University professor Charles Kerfoot at a Wednesday open house for the Abandoned Mining Wastes Project in Lake Linden.

LAKE LINDEN — Members of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) team overseeing the cleanup of abandoned mining waste at sites around the Torch Lake area reported progress and answered questions from the public at a Wednesday open house.

Although several sites have already been cleaned up as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program, the DEQ’s efforts target unaddressed issues, such as more than 750 drums of waste reportedly on the bottom of Torch Lake, industrial ruins and polychlorinated biphenyls, which have accumulated in Torch Lake fish.

The top priority for field investigation this year was the Quincy Mining Company operational areas between Dollar Bay and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. A sampling plan to identify historic areas of contamination will go into action the week of Sept. 3. Details of the plan were uploaded Wednesday on the Abandoned Mining Wastes Project’s site at bit.ly/2wredgx.

Several projects are done in collaboration with the EPA’s Emergency Response Branch, including removal activities at Quincy Mining Company sites in Mason, which include asbestos and abandoned containers.

Work will begin there in early October, said Brian Kelly, the on-site coordinator. The project includes six areas, with drums, asbestos and lead.

“We’re going to try to get started this fall, work until the weather changes and come back in the spring,” he said.

Whether they can finish then will depend upon available funding the EPA has, Kelly said.

The EPA will request more funding over the winter.

“It should be a pretty big project, but I think it’ll make a real improvement,” he said.

Another EPA collaboration is at the Lake Linden Recreation Area, where sediments testing positive for PCBs and lead are being removed with the cooperation of the land’s owner, Honeywell Specialty Materials.

About 1,300 cubic yards of sediment will be removed this fall, said Chuck Geadelmann, Honeywell’s corporate manager for remediation evaluation.

“This is just an initial early action, because we’ve identified this area being closest to the shore,” Kelly said.

That will also include work to remove waste piles and asbestos at the former C&H Mineral Building in Lake Hubbell.

Cap repair in the Hubbell processing area was also completed this year, said DEQ project manager Amy Keranen.

Keranen said this summer’s flooding did not impact projects.

“Right on track,” she said. “We say what we did, we say what we’re going to do, and then we do it.”

Carol MacLennan, a researcher at the Great Lakes Research Center, has been coming to the annual open houses for years. While a social sciences professor at Michigan Technological University, she assisted Keranen in researching the buildings and processing history of the cleanup sites.

“There’s a lot more movement since 2014 than there had been for a long time,” she said, including the mobilization of the Torch Lake Public Action Council.

Keranen’s work has included finding waste piles at the minerals building, which the DEQ sampled last summer. That triggered an upcoming trip from the EPA emergency response team.

MacLennan sees the biggest areas left as the drums and the contaminated sediments in Torch Lake. that could involve capping them or removing them.

“Superfund de-listed the sediments, but they’re the source of some of the contamination in the fish,” she said.

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