award helps students monitor Upper Peninsula Superfund Site
Release from EPA
1, 2004) -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has awarded
a $32,350 grant to Michigan Technological University in Houghton,
Mich., to continue support of a unique Superfund program involving
five Upper Peninsula high schools.
Calumet, Chassell, Dollar Bay, Hancock and Lake Linden-Hubbell high
schools are performing long-term monitoring of bird and plant diversity
and soil fertility on the Torch Lake Superfund site in the UP's
Keewenaw Peninsula. Coordinated by MTU's Western Upper Peninsula
Center for Science, Math and Environmental Education, the students'
monitoring assists EPA's efforts in charting the progress of the
vegetation cap and habitat reconstruction done under the Agency's
Superfund program. The monitoring is believed to be the first time
EPA has used students to collect the follow-up scientific data required
after a Superfund cleanup is completed.
pleased to be helping the scientific education of these high school
students," said Acting Regional Administrator Bharat Mathur.
"Hopefully some of the young people will consider careers in
the initial year of the students' work was provided locally, but
EPA is now paying for the remaining term of the agreement. Grant
funds will be used for personnel costs as well as supplies needed
for the monitoring. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also coordinating
with EPA and MTU on the project.
The Torch Lake
site was placed on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites
in 1986 due strictly to ecological and environmental concerns. In
most cases, a human health threat must also be shown before a site
is placed on the NPL. More than 200 million tons of copper waste
(stamp sands and slag) from 70 years of mining have been dumped
in Torch Lake. As a result, erosion was rampant, vegetation scarce,
and the aquatic ecosystem severely damaged. Under EPA's cleanup
plan, several inches of sandy loam were laid over polluted sections
and then seeded. Since 1999, about 700 acres at 11 Houghton County
sites have been cleaned up, with another 100 acres to complete.
the first year of monitoring, plant regrowth and repopulation by
birds and small animals were documented by scientific experts. In
early 2003, EPA began training area high school teachers who now
teach their students to do the monitoring as part of the class curriculum.
The students take soil samples, identify and count birds, and lay
out grids on the ground to survey plant growth. The collected data
is then analyzed by EPA to determine if the cleanup is working.
The Agency has been pleased with the results so far. Vegetation
is once again growing on the formerly barren stamp sands, and birds
and small mammals are moving back to the area.