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EPA begins contaminated soil cleanup at former scrapyard in Ripley

HANCOCK TOWNSHIP — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Wednesday that it has begun a cleanup of contaminated soil at the Julio Properties site in Ripley, and anticipates the cleanup to be completed by the end of summer.

The former scrapyard crosses the rails-to-trails Lake Linden Route used by bikers, joggers and track teams. The EPA will remove soil contaminated with mercury, lead, manganese, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and asbestos within 100 feet of the trail and surface water.

“The Lake Linden Route will not be closed,” the EPA said, “however, trail users should be on the lookout for flaggers who will need to stop traffic when heavy equipment crosses the trail.”

The Lake Linden route was once the route of the Hancock and Calumet Railroad, the track mileage of which extended northeasterly from Hancock to Lake Linden, and northerly from Lake Junction on that line to Mohawk. After the turn of the 20th century, the Copper Range Railroad northern route paralleled that of the H&C line.

According to the EPA, the site consists of three non-contiguous parcels totaling approximately 25 acres, where inactive salvage yard operations and construction-related junkyards are the primary land use. The all-season, multi-user recreational Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Lake Linden Route Trail traverses each of the parcels.

The Julio property saw industrial uses prior to Julio’s junk yards. the Portage Lake Foundry and Machinery operating within the area until at least 1949 based on review of Sanborn Maps. Julio Marine & Salvage currently operates at the location.In 1860, the Quincy Mining Company constructed a stamp mill on the Ripley waterfront, which operated until 1888, not far from Pewabic and Franklin mining companies’ stamp mills. In 1870, Samuel Hodge built the Lake Superior Iron Works, on which location Julio’s salvage yard. To the west of the Julio property was the smelting facilities of the Quincy Mining Company, which were located east of the Detroit and Lake Superior Copper Works smelting facilities.

Ripley Products, an operating metal fabricating facility, is situated in the northwest corner of the Julio Salvage parcel, while inactive salvage yard operations, and construction related “boneyards,” cover the balance of the land area, the EPA states. The all season, multi-user recreational Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Lake Linden Route trail, also known as Trail No. 3, passes through the Julio properties. The Julio Salvage parcel is bordered to the north by Michigan Department of Transportation Highway M-26, to the south by the Portage Canal, and to the east and west by a mixture of residential/commercial/vacant, and former industrial properties.

In Aug. 2018, the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality Remediation and Redevelopment division released a study called the Historical Data Review and Compilation Technical Memorandum: Abandoned Mining Wastes — Torch Lake Non-Superfund Site Quincy Mining Company Portage Operations Area, Houghton County, Michigan.

Page 1 of the document (Sec. 1.2) states that “Consistent with past industrial practices, Torch Lake and the Portage Canal served as dumping grounds for virtually all mining industry related wastes, including tailings, slag, and various chemicals.”

The EPA states that additional removal work will address:

• Abandoned containers

• Debris mixed with PCBs, asbestos, and mercury

• A leaking tank car containing PCB oil.

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