Smelter site preps to be park

By Kurt Hauglie

khauglie@mininggazette.com

RIPLEY – It’s been almost two years since the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission acquired the former Quincy Smelter site, and clean up work will continue there in May, according to Scott See.

See, who is Advisory Commission executive director, said there are four projects planned at the site, although the order of the work isn’t set.

The intention of the Advisory Commission, which currently owns the smelter site, is to eventually turn it over to the National Park Service, but first some work, including the finalizing of environmental assessments of the site, had to be done. That assessment was done by West Chester, Pennsylvania-based Weston Solutions, with an office in Houghton. The company will also do the clean up in May.

Funding for the $700,000 project comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the NPS, See said.

Before the Advisory Commission took position of the smelter site, many buildings contained a large amount of debris, but See sat that’s no longer an issue.

“The buildings have largely be cleaned out of debris,” he said.

The work planned for May includes removal of residual mercury contamination in the smelter assay office, See said. At some time, someone poured mercury down a drain, and the pipe from the drain has to be removed. Until the pipe is removed, people have to stay out of the building.

“Nobody can interact with it,” he said.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency removed all the asbestos on the smelter site, so See said that substance is no longer a problem there.

There are still some debris piles and piles of some substances used in the smelting process around the property, See said.

“We’re just going to remove these material piles,” he said.

Last autumn, See said a former ice house on the property was torn down, because it was leaking a substance, which was affecting the pH of the ground on which it sat.

“It wasn’t a toxic material, but it was negatively affecting the environment,” he said.

The debris from the demolition of the building will be removed during the May clean up, See said, and the soil will be excavated down to depth of 3 feet.

See said the fourth project planned for the May clean up is the removal of containers scattered around the site, some of which contained toxic materials at one time, and aren’t critical for telling the story of the smelting process.

“(The containers are) negatively affecting the site,” he said.

See said containers, which were important for the smelting process, will be left onsite.

The clean up is expected to take one month, See said.