EPA orders cleanup work at contaminated Cass Lake site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered two companies to cleanup a site declared contaminated in the 1980s.

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CASS LAKE -- Two companies have been ordered to cleanup contaminated soil in Cass Lake by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

According to a release, International Paper and Burlington Northern Santa Fe were issued an order from the EPA to clean up soil at the St. Regis Superfund site in Cass Lake. Located within the bounds of the Leech Lake Nation, the site was once the home of a St. Regis Paper Co.

The wood treatment plant was in operation from the 1950s to the 1980s and used creosote and pentachlorophenol. Following the closure of the plant, the EPA placed the 170-acre area on its National Priorities in 1984, as the treatment material contaminated the groundwater.

The site is located just south of the train tracks running through Cass Lake and east of Aspen Avenue (State Highway 371), near Pike Bay. Locations such as the one in Cass Lake are referred to by the EPA as Superfund Sites, which contain hazardous substances and pollutants.

The compound of concern in Cass Lake is dioxin, which was used in the wood treatment process as a preservative and an insecticide at the site. Dioxin affects the skin and has been shown to be very toxic in animal studies and potentially causes cancer.


The cleanup operation in Cass Lake will be based on a plan developed in 2020 . The companies will excavate the dioxin contaminated soil and replace it with clean soil and vegetation. Some of the soil will be taken to locations owned by the responsible parties for storage.

A small amount of the soil, meanwhile, will be transported to a disposal site. The estimated cost of the work is $21.4 million.

This isn't the first operation in the area. From 2004-2006, the EPA removed 3,900 tons of soil from the site and also built a groundwater pump to treat the water.

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