MPCA a step closer on St. Louis River Area of Concern cleanup with Erie Pier Ponds

Contact: Lucie Amundsen (218-302-6600)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) remediation team has completed another step towards the cleanup of the Ponds behind Erie Pier project in the St. Louis River Area of Concern (SLRAOC). The project is one of 11 MPCA remediation projects in the Duluth-Superior Harbor and a priority for cleanup. The MPCA opened its environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) on the Ponds project for public comment this week. Next steps include signing a Great Lakes Legacy Act project agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, expected by the end of the calendar year. Remedial construction would start in May 2021.

The Ponds site is one of the most contaminated in the SLRAOC and includes two backwater ponds surrounded by shallow marsh wetlands. The sediment at the bottom of the ponds contains pollutants that are the legacy of years of heavy industrial activity on the site before environmental regulations.

The remedy for the contamination includes dredging the ponds to remove approximately 45,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury, dioxins/furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and heavy metals. After dredging, the water removed from the sediment will be treated onsite using a temporary facility, and the sediment will be trucked to a permitted landfill for disposal.

After the cleanup, the site will be restored with native vegetation and new surface sediment in the ponds to create habitat for bottom-dwelling bugs and fish. The City of Duluth’s Cross City Trail will run adjacent to the site and allow users access once the cleanup project is complete in July 2022. The project will cost an estimated $16 million, of which 65% is coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative fund and 35% is coming from Minnesota bond funds.

The agency is requesting public comments on the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW). The EAW describes the project’s potential effects on the environment, including its impact on nearby land uses, geography, habitat, and historic sites. It also details air and vehicle emissions, dust, traffic, noise, and odors that the project might produce.

The environmental assessment worksheet is available on the MPCA website. Request a copy from or send comments to Patrice Jensen (651-757-2465), MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194 by 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 19, 2020.

The SLRAOC has prioritized 43 construction projects to address contaminated sediment and restoration of aquatic habitat in Minnesota and Wisconsin; 16 of these projects are being led by the MPCA. The U.S. and Canada designated 43 such areas of concern in both countries where historic industrial activities left a legacy of environmental damage. In 2013, the MPCA, Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa developed a comprehensive plan to address these legacy damages in the SLRAOC. As of October 2020, these organizations have completed 41 of the 80 management actions that need to be completed before delisting can be proposed.