LAKE LINDEN — Most of the remnants of the mining era in the Copper Country can easily be seen.
But what’s in these ruined structures and surrounding landscape that can’t be seen and more importantly, what dangers do they pose to the general public? Finding out has been the goal of the Abandoned Mining Waste Project of the Department of Environmental Quality, focusing on the areas in and around Torch Lake.
The DEQ held an open house to talk about the project with local residents.
DEQ’s U.P. Remediation and Redevelopment Division Supervisor Cliff Clark said, “People who have lived here all their lives, they remember things that were going on around lake when they were children. They remember their parents working at different facilities and they’re giving us tips on sources of contamination and the activities that caused it.”
The DEQ’s concern are the barrels of waste other waste streams from processes to refine the ore, such as power generation or smelting.
What the DEQ found were concentrated areas of elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB’s. Regardless, the DEQ says the public doesn’t need to be afraid to go swimming or boating at Torch Lake.
“There are certain areas where I think people should use common sense and stay out of, and generally they’re fenced. But generally these wastes that we’re looking at, the hazard substances we’re addressing are things that could pose a risk to humans over the course of their lifetimes. They’re not the kind of wastes that somebody could encounter and have an immediate effect.”
This year, the DEQ plans to clean up some asbestos, address some areas of PCB contamination at the old coal dock and continue their investigation down the shoreline.