Cleanup and Natural Resources Improvement Agreement Reached at Wisconsin Superfund Site

Northern States Power Co. will begin cleanup of the Ashland/Northern States Power Lakefront Superfund Site in Northwestern Wisconsin under a settlement the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.  The 40-acre site is located on the shore of Chequamegon Bay in Lake Superior and was used for various industrial purposes for more than a century, resulting in the release of volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, and semivolatile organic compounds, such as naphthalene, at the site.

Under the agreement, filed today with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., Northern States Power will design, construct and implement the cleanup plan for the on-land portion of the site.  The on-land cleanup is expected to cost approximately $40 million.  The United States will also require additional cleanup of sediments in Chequamegon Bay, and expects that Northern States Power and any other responsible parties will perform the rest of the cleanup. That work is not part of the agreement filed with the Court today.

Today’s agreement also requires Northern States Power to transfer approximately 990 acres of land along the Iron River to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and 400 acres within the reservation of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to the Bad River tribe.  These parcels, worth about $1.9 million, will be preserved by the state and the Bad River tribe to enhance natural resources in the area that have been harmed by pollution from the site, such as fisheries in Chequamegon Bay and its rivers.  In addition, the state of Wisconsin will transfer 114 acres of land to the Red Cliff Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.  That land will also be managed to preserve natural resources.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also serve as trustees for natural resources in the area and joined the settlement on behalf of the United States.
“This agreement will begin the long-awaited cleanup of contamination at the Ashland Lakefront site,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The agreement will result in the preservation of land in the Chequamegon Bay watershed, including tribal lands, to conserve and enhance natural resources and aquatic habitat that have been harmed by more than a century of pollution at the site.”

“Chequamegon Bay and Lake Superior will be better protected as a result of this agreement,” said EPA Region 5 Regional Administrator Susan Hedman.  “Removing the most highly contaminated soil from the site and controlling the flow of contaminated groundwater will prevent polluted water from entering the bay and harming fisheries.”

For more than a century, the Ashland site has been home to various industrial uses, including sawmills, railroads, and a city wastewater treatment plant.  The primary source of pollution at the site was the manufactured gas plant operated by Northern States Power’s predecessor company between 1885 and 1947.  Pollution from the manufactured gas plant contaminated both the on-land portion of the site and the sediment in the bay.

The on-land cleanup will include removal of source material and impacted soil in Kreher Park and the adjacent bluff area and recovery wells designed to remove pollution from the Copper Falls aquifer.  The work Northern States Power will perform under this agreement is expected to take approximately two to three years.

EPA will oversee the work to ensure that it follows the cleanup plan and complies with the agreement signed by the parties.  The state of Wisconsin will support EPA in overseeing the work.