Open for comment: Environmental review of proposed Minnesota Slip cleanup project

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Minnesota Slip visitors won’t see Duluth’s famous retired ore carrier William A. Irvin this fall if a proposed sediment cleanup project occurs, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced today. The agency is requesting public comments on the related environmental review through March 7, 2018.

The Irvin’s permanent berth is also home to contaminated sediments from a century of marine- and shipping-related activities that helped Duluth become a world class port. However, for five weeks this fall, visitors will see construction equipment in an otherwise empty slip during the proposed sediment cleanup project. By the time construction begins October 1, additional privately owned tourist, charter and recreational vessels will also have temporarily vacated the slip.

The nearly $2-million proposal will place clean material, dredged from the Duluth/Superior harbor, on top the existing contaminated sediments. This newly created “cap” will be beneficial to sediment-dwelling and aquatic creatures, as well as the fish community, while effectively isolating the contaminants from possible release to the harbor, the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.

Currently, the slip’s contaminated sediments are seven-to-twelve feet thick and has an estimated volume of 37,000 cubic yards. Contaminants include polyaromatic hydrocarbons, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, and zinc.

At the heart of Duluth’s waterfront, Minnesota Slip was one of dozens of unintended dumping sites for waste runoff and pipe discharges when such activities were unregulated. Since then, environmental laws and technology have evolved so scientists can not only identify and measure contaminants and understand their effects on aquatic creatures, but also select and implement the most efficient and cost-effective remedies possible to remove or neutralize the contaminants’ compounded effects.

This proposed cleanup will not only help improve the slip’s water quality but the larger St. Louis River watershed as well. The slip was identified in 1987 as one of 10 sites in the St. Louis River Area of Concern in need of cleanup.  Cleaning up this slip will help bring the SLRAOC one step closer to taking it off the binational list of most-contaminated ports on the Great Lakes.

Adjacent landowners have been actively involved in the remedy selection process and are aware of the impending 24/7 construction schedule.

For the project to move forward, state and federal permits and authorizations will be required. Funding is secured as a 35/65 match between state bonding dollars and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lake’s Legacy Act.

State agencies use an Environmental Assessment Worksheet to help decide whether a project requires a more extensive Environmental Impact Statement. The worksheet covers site location details, nearby resources and other elements, including wells, soil types, water use, manure management, air and odor emissions, and traffic.

The worksheet for this project is available on the MPCA's Environmental Assessment Worksheet webpage. It’s also available by calling Patrice Jensen at 651-757-2465. Written comments may be sent by email to her at patrice.jensen@state.mn.us, or mailed to her attention at the MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., St. Paul, MN 55155. All comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on March 7, 2018.

To learn more about this process, visit Environmental Review webpage.