Byproducts of a working port: Comments sought for multiple Duluth harbor sites’ contaminated sediment cleanup options

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

As the largest and busiest port on the Great Lakes, Duluth’s harbor is abuzz with shipping activity almost year-round. Shipping has been a critical contributor to the region’s economic success for more than a century, from the first sailing ships to the “salties” and ore carriers of today.

But decades before water quality concerns led to environmental protection laws, maritime and industrial activities’ contaminated the harbor’s sediment. Now called “legacy” pollutants, these chemicals and heavy metals, remain today posing a threat to the public and aquatic life. They also restrict redevelopment and economic activities in some areas 

Four former and current industrial slips in the harbor, Slip 3, Azcon/Duluth Seaway Port Authority Slip, Slip C, and AGP/Northland Slip, contain a combined 162,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. These sites are among 10 identified for cleanup as part of the St. Louis River Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan.

Each site has multiple cleanup options, ranging from no action to a variety of combinations of monitoring, dredging and capping (adding a layer of clean material over the contaminated sediments).

These cleanup options are now available for public review on the MPCA's St. Louis River Area of Concern sediment cleanup sites webpage.  They can also be obtained by contacting Heidi Bauman at 218-302-6607 or Heidi.Bauman@state.mn.us.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is offering the public a chance to learn more about clean-up options for all four sites and provide input at an open house July 20. The event will run from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the agency’s Duluth office at 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400 (Paulucci Building). Parking is available adjacent to the building; access should be made through the bay side entrance.

MPCA staff will be on hand to answer questions about the four projects, sediment cleanup options, timelines and next steps. The public will be able to provide input on the cleanup options at the open house or in writing during the public review period ending August 4, 2017.

All written communication should be directed to Heidi Bauman, MPCA Contaminated Sediment Coordinator, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802 or by email at Heidi.Bauman@state.mn.us. All comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, August 4, 2017.

The St. Louis River Area of Concern in Minnesota and Wisconsin is one of 43 contaminated areas in the Great Lakes region that are identified for cleanup in an agreement between the United States and Canada. In 2013, the MPCA and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources adopted an ambitious action plan to clean the area from legacy impacts. The four sites are part of several contaminated sediment areas that will be cleaned up within the Duluth-Superior Harbor area during the next few years.

The 2017 Minnesota Legislature supported this cleanup plan through a $25.4 million bonding effort to provide the state’s 35 percent share of the projected costs. The federal contribution that would fund the remaining 65 percent is dependent upon Congress’s continued support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

After the public comment period ends, the MPCA will review public comments and select final clean-up plans for all four sites.