WUPHD: Close LL beach if not safe

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Lake Linden Clerk bob Poirier discusses a letter from the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.

LAKE LINDEN — The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department recommended Lake Linden close its beach for next summer if permanent remedies can not be found for contamination.

Lake Linden Village Clerk Bob Poirier said the village will determine the situation in early spring once it has a better idea of what portions of the beach are affected. 

“We’re going to find out a lot more stuff between now and next spring, from the EPA testing and the second round of testing that was done there,” Poirier said. “Between now and then, they’re supposed to come up with their proposal to the plan to remediate that area.”

The village received a public health assessment from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services last summer stating there was an unsafe level of toxins in the lake sediment in the beach area. Elevated levels of arsenic, copper, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls were found at the site.

The beach was the site of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co.’s reclamation plant, where it attempted to remove copper from stamp sands. The remaining sand – which contained heavy metals such as lead – was left there or put in the lake.

The EPA conducted cleanup of the torch Lake area as part of its Superfund work. 

In response to the advisory, the village posted advisory signs warning people away from a fenced-in area, added washing stations at the beach and added uncontaminated sand. 

However, the Health Department stated, winds, currents or human use could bring contaminants to the surface during the beach season. 

“WUPHD feels that if a remedy cannot be put in place that ensures that normal behavior, such as a toddler digging in the sand and then placing his hand in his mouth prior to handwashing is safe, then the beach should not be open to the public during future swimming seasons,” Cathyrn Beer, health officer/administrator for the WUPHD, said in the letter. 

The EPA removed about 1,000 yards of sand at the site in September and October.

About 906 yards of lead-contaminated soil and 65 tons of arsenic-contaminated soil were removed and transported to the Delta County landfill. 

Beer said she was encouraged by the EPA’s steps to find a permanent remedy at the site. 

“Removal of the contaminants identified in the Lake Linden beach area appears to be the only remedy which will allow safe, routine use of the Lake Linden beach,” she said.