Protect the Water - the coal-tar blob under Chequamegon Bay is toxic. by Wm. Krupinski MIDWEST TREATY NETWORK

Dec. 2002
Xcel faces large cleanup of Wisconsin gas plant Issue

Sept. 2002
EPA Names Ashland/northern States Power Lakefront Site to National Priorities List

Mar. 2000
Power company to pump out Ashland lakefront contamination

July 1999
Clean up the Coal Tar in Chequamegon Bay
Update on Protect the Water Gathering

    For more information contact:
    Bay Area North Guard Rep, Frank Koehn 715 774 3333
    or Bob Olsgard Lake Superior Alliance 715 635 7007
    photos available: call 715 774 3333


Xcel faces large cleanup of Wisconsin gas plant Issue

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The Associated Press
Dec. 1, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Xcel Energy Inc. faces a multimillion-dollar cleanup because of toxic pollution beneath a northern Wisconsin bay of Lake Superior.

The pollutants affecting about 20 acres of Chequamegon Bay and nearby shorefront at Ashland, Wis., can be traced in part to a plant that once operated there. It converted coal into gas for heating, cooking and lighting for more than 60 years beginning in the 1880s.

In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the site to its Superfund list, but that doesn't mean the federal government will pay to clean up the site.

Across Minnesota and Wisconsin, more than 75 former coal-gas plants built in the 19th century have left toxic footprints in towns and cities. Some sites have been cleaned up. Others still contain buried benzene, napthalene, coal tars and other chemical byproducts released before pollution control agencies even existed.

Northern States Power Co., Xcel's predecessor, acquired the Ashland property in 1977. Xcel has known of the pollution at Ashland since the mid-1990s and has taken steps to reduce groundwater contamination.

Xcel says a defunct lumber company on the bayfront caused some of the pollution, so the utility shouldn't foot the entire bill.

"We will be part of the cleanup but we don't think it's legally appropriate to our customers to take on all the liability," said Jerry Winslow, Xcel principal environmental engineer.

In the late 19th century, manufactured gas, sometimes called coal gas, was produced in small local plants and delivered by pipelines to power streetlights, homes and businesses.

Then electricity arrived, and later, natural gas via interstate pipelines. By the mid-20th century, the coal gasification industry ceased to exist.

But its toxic byproducts - solvents, oily tars and other wastes - often remained buried at the plant sites. Some of the chemicals are known to cause cancer. At some sites, waste was discharged into waterways.

In Minnesota, pollution control officials have identified 30 historic gas plant sites, and several cleanups are underway or finished. Perhaps the most serious was the former Minneapolis Gas Works along the Mississippi River. Minnegasco, now CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco, spent about $30 million to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater on 25 acres there between 1991 and 1998.

The cleanup could be more expensive along Ashland's waterfront - one of 49 known coal-gas pollution sites in Wisconsin. Wastes have contaminated soil, 10 acres of sediment in the bay, groundwater and a filled-in part of the bay. Large docks on each side of the bay's affected area limit the spread of contamination by waves.

"Anything shoved out in the lake is just sitting there on the bottom," said Jennifer Pelczar, a Wisconsin DNR hydrogeologist.

Since 1995 Xcel has spent about $3 million for legal fees, consultants' advice, excavation of some contaminated soil and for a pumping system to collect tar from groundwater. That amount could be dwarfed by the total cost of cleanup. A consultant for the DNR estimated in 1998 that the costs could range from $4 million to $93 million, depending on the extent of cleanup and whether the contaminated bay sediment would be covered to entomb the tar or dredged to remove it.

Xcel officials said it is concerned about the cleanup's effect on customers' bills. "We want a cleanup that does the right thing for the environment, but we also want to make sure our customers aren't getting stuck with a $50 or $60 million bill," said Dave Donovan, Xcel's regulatory policy adviser in Eau Claire, Wis.

Donovan said that under Wisconsin rules, Xcel could pass along the costs of cleanup to its approximately 90,000 Wisconsin natural gas customers.



EPA Names Ashland/northern States Power
Lakefront Site to National Priorities List

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CONTACT:(EPA) Bri Bill, (312) 353-6646
(EPA) Mick Hans, (312) 353-5050
(WDNR) Jamie Dunn, (715) 635-4049

For Immediate Release
No. 02-OPA118

EPA Names Ashland/northern States Power Lakefront Site to National Priorities List

CHICAGO (Sept. 6, 2002) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named the Ashland/Northern States Power site in Ashland, Wis., to the National Priorities List of Superfund hazardous waste sites.

Ashland/NSP was the only EPA Region 5 site among 19 named to the NPL nationally. Seven sites were proposed for the NPL, including one Region 5 site - Lammers Barrel Factory in Beavercreek, Ohio.

Currently, there are 1,238 final sites on the NPL and 62 proposed sites. A total of 818 NPL sites have reached construction completion status (the point at which only long-term site maintenance and monitoring remain to be completed).

Extensive Superfund information, including factsheets about the Ashland and Lammers Barrel sites, is online at The complete NPL announcement appears in the Sept. 5, 2002, Federal Register.

About the Site The Ashland/NSP site encompasses about 20 acres, including manufactured gas plant waste and potentially other waste from industries that operated in the area. The long-closed manufactured gas plant, which operated from about 1885 to 1947, was on Xcel Energy (formerly Northern States Power) property at 301 Lakeshore Drive East (U.S. Highway 2).

Waste from the plant was disposed of at the site and has migrated off-site. Contaminants have been found at the former plant site, in a nearby railroad corridor, a nearby city park and in the ground water beneath these properties. About 10 acres of sediment in adjacent Chequamegon Bay are also polluted. Portions of the bay have been closed to swimming and boating due to sediment contamination. The pollutants include coal tar, cinder ash, boiler slag, demolition debris and wood waste.

The site was proposed for addition to the NPL in December 2000, based on past investigations by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Xcel Energy. A comprehensive site evaluation and engineering study, including cleanup options, will be developed in the near future. EPA and WDNR expect to determine a final site cleanup plan in late 2004.


Power company to pump out Ashland lakefront contamination

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By Steve Tomasko, The Daily Press, Ashland WI, 17 March 2000

Northern States Power released details Thursday of an interim plan to clean up a portion of coal tar contamination in groundwater near Kreher Park. Company spokesmen talked about the plan at a public informational meeting at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. The meeting was the third in a series of meetings sponsored by the Ashland/Bayfield League of Women Voters and the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute to inform citizens about contamination problems at Ashland's lakefront.

NSP plans on pumping out a pocket of coal tar from the Copper Falls Aquifer that lies beneath its property at 301 Lake Shore Drive East, next to the church.

The coal tar was a by-product of a manufactured gas plant that occupied the NSP site from 1885 to 1947. Some of the coal tar was reused as boiler fuel or sold, but some was released into the environment where it seeped down through the soil into the aquifer. coal tars are a mixture of hundreds of chemicals classified as "volatile organic compounds" and "polyaromatic hydrocarbons."

Testing by NSP and the Department of Natural Resources has shown a solid pocket of "free product" in the aquifer. Free product is undissolved, pure coal tars. A plume of ground water contaminated with dissolved coal tars extends to the north, toward the lake, from the site.

The cleanup action is designed to only pump out the free product pocket. It will not address the contaminated groundwater. A cleanup plan for the groundwater, and other contaminated areas, is still waiting for an Environmental Protection Agency ranking of the site for possible inclusion in the Super Fund program.

Besides the aquifer, the DNR has found coal tar contamination in about 20 acres of soils, groundwater, surface water and sediments in Chequamegon Bay between Kreher Park and the city marina.

Jim Musso, NSP manager of environmental affairs and lands, said the company was going ahead with the interim cleanup for a number of reasons. The company was ready to work with the DNR last year on choosing cleanup options before being delayed by the EPA's involvement, Musso said and the interim plan will give them useful information on later cleanup actions.

"This is not a final solution, but it is a step in that direction," Musso said.

NSP's plan is to install three pumping wells directly into the coal tar pocket in the aquifer and slowly pump it into a treatment facility. The mixture of coal tar and water will be separated first by gravity, the heavy tars will sink, and the lighter oils float. The company will recycle or burn the tars or "otherwise dispose of them properly," Musso said. The mixture will go through other filters to remove more contaminates and eventually go the the city's sanitary sewer system.

NSP will work closely on monitoring the flow at several points and making sure it's clean enough before it enters the sewer system, said Dave Trainor of Dames and Moore, an engineering and consulting firm that's been working with NSP on the project.

The company plans on pumping the water/tar mixture very slowly, about a gallon per minute or 4,000 gallons per day. They don't want to pump the viscous fluid too quickly and change the flow characteristics of the aquifer, Trainor said.

Although coal tars are heavier than water, a quirk of geology has held the pocket of coal tar relatively near the surface, instead of sinking to the bottom of the aquifer. Upwards pressure in the groundwater has kept it near the top. That pressure is also what makes the artesian wells in the area flow.

Trainor said they didn't know exactly how much free product coal tar is in the groundwater, but he estimated it could be as much as 100,000 to 200,000 gallons. So, at their slow pumping rates, the cleanup could take awhile. "We're looking at doing this for months and years to have an impact on the groundwater," Trainor said.

By removing the coal tar pocket, the company hopes to slow the spread of contaminated groundwater flowing toward the lake. NSP will spend $350,000 to $400,000 in start up costs, and about $60,000 a year for the project. Musso said their goal is to have the facility operating by June 1. The project first has to get DNR approval, which is likely to come in a couple of weeks.

� Copyright 2000 Murphy McGinnis Interative. All rights reserved.


There is no Independence from Coal Tar
- Storm of protest in Ashland

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Torrential rain and high winds weren't the only surprises awaiting spectators gathered for Ashland's 4th of July lake front festivities.

Just before the electrical storm unleashed its deafening thunder and lightening on those gathered by the lake, visitors to the shoreline at Kreher Park, heard a resounding bell tolling by the water's edge in front of the Cheguamegon Hotel. The bell, the S.S. Resonance, had been transported to the Lake shore for the Protect the Water gathering, an international gathering of Lake Superior residents concerned about the cancer-causing Coal Tar, oozing beneath the surface of the ground and water near the recreational area. The Coal Tar is the disgarded by-product of a manufactured gas plant formerly located on the NSP site. Researchers have found concentrations of cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at the Kreher Park site to be 1000 times safe levels.

The Protect the Water Gathering included representatives from the Great Lakes Indigenous Environmental Network (from both Canada and the US), Lake Superior Alliance, Midwest Treaty Network, Protect the Earth, and locally based Bay Area North Guard (BANG). Anishinaabe tribal members from communities in Ontario and Minnesota joined Bad River Ogitchidaa in the "Community Alert" action to warn local residents to be very careful when recreating on Ashland's lakefront and Kreher Park area and consuming fish caught in these waters.

Participants in the Protect the Water Gathering (PTW) joined BANG in calling for:

1. A remediation plan that includes the long term prospective for lake front planning and development.
2. Involving the Environmental Protection Agency in reviewing the contamination on Ashland's lakefront.
3. A plan that recognizes Lake Superior is the largest source of fresh water in the world and spiritually important to many of our friends and neighbors.

PTW participants were very concerned that tribal governments are not equally recognized by the Department of Natural Resources. PTW participants are demanding a government to government involvement between tribes and the State of Wisconsin.

Bay Area North Guard plans to intensify efforts and share these concerns about the health of the region's water resources and the Ashland Coal Tar remediation plan.

The Wider View  Copyright 1994-1999 Jay Moynihan,
all rights reserved. 070699

What's gooey, reddish brown to black, buried, dangerous, expensive to clean up correctly and seeping into Lake Superior and the ground water from Ashland?

      ... Coal tar.
A lot of it too. Exposure to coal tar is a common occupational cause of skin cancer.

The OSHA advisory about it states: Coal Tar: Reddish-brown, mobile liquid with an aromatic odor.

IARC: Coal-Tar Pitches and Coal-Tars - Group 1, carcinogenic to humans

SYMPTOM(s): Lightheadedness, drowsiness; eye, nose, skin irritation; dermatitis

HEALTH EFFECTS: Irritation-Eye, Nose, Throat, Skin---Mild (HE16)

Narcosis (HE8) ORGAN: Respiratory system, eyes, skin If you want to see just how dangerous this stuff is go to the website for the CDC, Center for Disease Control at , and click on search, then use the words "coal, tar, cancer" in their search engine. It pulls up over 4900 documents in their database. There is a wealth of information in many other databases about this. The problem of coal tar contamination is wide spread due to the late 1800's-early 1900's practice of using coal gasification plants to produce power and fuel. The most dangerous part of the substance is what is called a "polycyclic" compound. This can accumulate in living matter. It does accumulate in fish. Fish samples at the Ashland site do show signs of coal tar contamination according to the Wisconsin DNR.

The following is from EPA data:

Environmental/Occupational Exposure Polycyclic organic compounds have been detected in ambient air from sources including vehicle exhausts, asphalt roads, coal, coal tar, agricultural burning, residential wood burning, and hazardous waste sites. Occupational exposure to PAHs may occur in coal tar production plants, coking plants, coal-gasification sites, smokehouses, municipal trash incinerators, and other facilities. Polycyclic organic matter has been listed as a pollutant of concern to EPA's Great Waters Program due to its persistence in the environment, potential to bioaccumulate, and toxicity to humans and the environment.

Acute Effects: Animal studies have reported enzyme alterations in the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract and increases in liver weights from acute oral exposure. Acute animal tests, such as tests in rats, have shown high acute toxicity from oral exposure.

Chronic Effects (Noncancer): Chronic (long-term) exposure in humans has resulted in dermatitis, photosensitization in sunlight, irritation of the eyes, and cataracts.Animal studies have reported effects on the blood and liver from oral exposure to and effects on the immune system from dermal exposure.

Reproductive/Developmental Effects: Animal studies have indicated reproductive toxicity, including a reduced incidence of pregnancy and decreased fertility. Developmental effects, such as a reduced viability of litters and reduced mean pup weight, have also been noted.

Cancer Risk: Skin cancer. Animal studies have reported respiratory tract tumors from inhalation and stomach tumors, leukemia, and lung tumors. Physical Properties Polycyclic organic matter is made up of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, gas, wood, or other organic substances. I will be writing in some future columns about the toxic site in Ashland, what clean-up methods have been used in other areas facing this problem and other information about related matters.

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