Cass Lake residents continue waiting for Superfund cleanupby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Bemidji, Minn. — Cass Lake residents heard an update this week from the Environmental Protection Agency on plans to clean up the St. Regis Superfund site.
The site is contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals left behind by a wood treatment plant that operated from 1958 to 1984. It's been on the EPA's Superfund priority list since 1984. Dozens of homes are in the contaminated area.
State Rep. John Percell, who works as an environmental policy analyst for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, says Cass Lake residents are frustrated with the process.
"We had a cleanup of this site back in the late 1980s, and now we're cleaning it up again," said Percell. "It just seems to be taking a long time. Many people who have lived, or grew up around the site, talk about health issues that they believe are associated with the site. That again, is a frustrating issue."
EPA spokesman Tim Drexler says he understands that frustration.
"[There is] certainly a lot of concern about the amount of time that it's taken for us to get to the point that we are at right now," he said. "And a certain level of frustration with the process. It's a cumbersome process, and I certainly understand the way that they feel."
Drexler says a solution likely includes major soil excavation. He says there could be additional work in the areas where people still live.
"Those houses could either have excavation of the contaminated soil, and then clean fill, and then revegetation," Drexler said. "Another option that's been floated is that the potentially responsible parties would purchase those homes, demolish them and then either put clean cover on or revegetate them."
The EPA says permanent cleanup probably won't get underway until 2012.