Atlas Cement Plant #4


The Ikonics building, on the site of the former Atlas Cement Plant, December 2011.

The Ikonics Corporation expansion site, located at 2302 Commonwealth Avenue in Duluth, was completed in December 2008. The $4.4-million facility was constructed to respond to emerging growth in Ikonics’ imaging and equipment divisions, which provide products based in photochemistry, abrasive etching, chemical etching, and other technologies. The new, 44,280-square-foot building sits upon a former brownfield property that had been vacant since the mid-1990s. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup (VIC) staff provided technical oversight of the environmental investigation, cleanup and redevelopment of the site.


The 11-acre Ikonics property is located on the southwest corner of the former 60-acre Universal Atlas Cement Plant (Atlas Cement), which was developed in 1915 and operated for nearly 70 years in conjunction with the nearby U.S. Steel milling operations. The milling, blending and cement-making processes were limited to the northern half of the Atlas Cement property, whereas bulk material delivery, storage areas, and an electrical substation were primarily located on the southern half, including on the Ikonics property. Atlas Cement operated until the mid-1980s. The buildings and substation were demolished in the late 1970s and early 1990s.

In 2003, the Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA) purchased the 60-acre plant site from U.S. Steel. In 2008, Ikonics purchased its expansion property from DEDA and DEDA entered the site into the MPCA VIC Program.

Environmental Issues and the cleanup process

  • The identified release at the property included arsenic, lead, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil, and elevated pH readings in soil associated with concrete-production byproducts.
  • Approximately 550 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed and disposed off site at a permitted landfill.
  • Asbestos-containing mastic adhering to a concrete transformer pad was disposed off site at a permitted landfill.
  • Excess site soils meeting the on-site reuse criteria were excavated and placed into a designated Soil Management Unitlocated on the southern third of the site.


The former Atlas Cement Plant operated until themid-1980s. (Photo by Rod Peterson, date unknown, published byH.C. Wick Co., Duluth.)

Redevelopment of the site

  • Management and regrading of site soils meeting the on-site reuse criteria.
  • Design and construction of a $4.4-million, 44,280-square-foot, slab-on-grade building, completed December 2008.

Environmental and economic benefits

  • 11 acres of the original 60-acre former cement plant were placed back into beneficial production.
  • 17 full-time employee positions at an average of $28.92/hour in 2009.
  • $119,638 in yearly property taxes payable in 2012.

Assurances received

March 3, 2011: No Further Action Letter issued for identified releases to soil.

Institutional controls

October 14, 2010: An Affidavit Concerning Real Property Contaminated with Hazardous Substances was recorded on the site with the St. Louis County Recorder’s Office.

Project partners

  • Duluth Economic Development Authority: Heidi Timm-Bijold, Business Resources Manager
  • Ikonics Corporation: Claude Piguet, Executive Vice President
  • MPCA VIC staff: David Knight, Project Manager; Kevin Sikkila, Hydrogeologist; and Shanna Schmitt, Hydrogeologist
  • Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development: Kristin Prososki, Project Manager
  • Barr Engineering: Eric Dott, Vice President