EPA Hosts Public Forum To Discuss Superfund Site In Cass Lake
It was a packed house of concerned citizens and local government officials as the Environmental Protection Agency laid out their latest plan to attack a superfund site that is filled with contaminated soil on the Leech Lake Reservation.
“The proposed plan is basically very similar to the one we proposed in 2016. It basically calls for digging out the soil that’s above a certain dioxin contamination level from residential soils, consolidating the low levels of contamination on responsible party owned property, and trucking the heavily contaminated soil off the reservation,” says Leslie Patterson, the remedial project manager for the EPA.
The contaminated soil would be moved to a location in St. Cloud. The remaining cancer risk of the area would be 1 in 1 million. One concern that was brought up was the declining property value of the land.
“That property value is killing this town and we need to make sure that when we’re counting those numbers we’re looking at the economic impacts. That we’re looking at the people who are still living here and whose children will still be living here,” says Levi Brown, a resident of Cass Lake.
Others expressed frustration at how the site could be left alone for so long.
Bob Pammett, a concerned citizen from Soudan, says, “For whatever reason, tribal members serve in the military at a high percentage than most groups in American societies and some of them return from their service…and it offends me that my fellow veterans have returned alive and were exposed to Agent Orange dioxins in Vietnam and they return to a community where they spend years exposed to the same contaminants.”
The next steps involve getting approval to perform the clean-up.
Patterson says, “What we do is we take those comments back. We look at them all, we respond to all the comments, and we decide if we want to go ahead with the selected plan that we’re proposing tonight or if we want to go in a different direction, and then we come out with a record of decision that announces what our final decision is.”