An Integrated Assessment of Torch Lake Area of Concern
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An Integrated Assessment of Torch Lake Area of Concern

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  • Sea Grant Program:
  • Description:
    Torch Lake has been an EPA Superfund site and Great Lakes Area of Concern for over thirty-​five years. Remediation has been slow and incomplete. The industrial site of copper ore processing that produced stamp sands (tailings), slag, chemical pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), and dramatic ecosystem changes during 100 years of mineral processing and reclamation, Torch Lake remains a polluted environment. Remediation has focused upon coverage and vegetation of the stamp sands that extend into Torch Lake and a few emergency actions to remove metals, asbestos, and PCBs at specific locations. What remains to be remediated are the lake sediments rich in copper and trace metals that prevent a healthy benthos, and the western shoreline of Torch Lake where many processing facilities once existed. The purpose of this report is to document the history of pollution at Torch Lake and to make available the findings of ongoing research and data collection in a form that benefits the community, government agencies, and researchers who continue the work of improving the Torch Lake ecosystem and eliminating exposure to major pollutants. This Summary attempts to synthesize the entire report and may be read as a stand-alone document; however, for documentation of information sources and rationales for opinions expressed in the summary, the reader must refer to the chapters of the full report. In 2011 Michigan Sea Grant funded researchers at Michigan Technological University (MTU) to perform an Integrated Assessment of the Torch Lake Area of Concern (TL AOC). The original objectives of the project were: 1) to gather and to summarize existing information regarding conditions in the AOC; 2) to communicate with stakeholders about the status of the site as well as stakeholders’ ideas for and visions of future conditions in the AOC; and 3) to identify and to begin to evaluate potential remedial actions that could mitigate any remaining undesirable conditions. This report summarizes the project findings related to the first objective and summarizes the actions taken to meet the second objective. The third objective was dropped as the project evolved, and no evaluation of potential remedial actions was performed. This project was funded for the period 2/1/2012-​1/31/2014, but we included actions through 12/2014 within the report. Actions subsequent to that date are briefly summarized in the Epilogue. The report is organized into several sections, some of which include multiple chapters. After an introduction to the scope of the Integrated Assessment in Chapter 1, Chapters 2-5 discuss the development of mineral processing and waste production at Torch Lake, the government study and remediation efforts through the Superfund and AOC programs, and the role of community participation.​Chapters 6-9 address the major problems including the three AOC beneficial use impairments: fish tumors, fish consumption restrictions, and degraded benthos. In addition, Chapter 9 summarizes other problems not addressed to date, and offers some general observations and recommendations​. This Summary does not summarize each chapter, but rather discusses the key points from the Integrated Assessment of most benefit to community members and those needing an overview of the status of Torch Lake pollution and remediation.
  • Sea Grant Document Number:
    MICHU-T-18-001;MICHU-T-14-005;
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  • Rights Information:
    Public Domain
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    Library
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