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Contaminated site in Paradise doesn’t qualify for EPA cleanup

Monitoring wells speckle the CCRC property in Whitefish Township.
Teresa Homsi
Monitoring wells speckle the CCRC property in Whitefish Township.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it’s not stepping in to clean up a contaminated site in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

The agency was asked by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) in 2022 to review a historic dump in Whitefish Township, near Paradise.

The EPA has now released a report evaluating the environmental conditions of the site, which sits on Lake Superior.

Brian Kelly is the operations section chief with EPA Region 5. He said the report contains certain metrics used to gauge if the site qualifies for EPA assistance.

In this case, Kelly said, contaminants did not exceed the EPA's criteria levels to warrant a federal cleanup response.

“That does not mean the site doesn’t need to be addressed, [or] that it isn’t a continued problem for the community," Kelly said. "It’s just not an imminent and substantial threat, it's not an immediate public health hazard.”

The Chippewa County Road Commission (CCRC), which owns the property, and EGLE have also said the site is “low risk.”

"We are simply not pursuing anymore state funded work because our past investigations have shown the site risk is low, and we must allocate limited money to mitigate sites with prevalent higher risk," wrote an EGLE representative to WCMU in June.

EGLE reached out to the EPA initially after finding corroded barrel lids with poison warning labels on the site. However, the EPA response team later found no evidence of drums with hazardous materials besides the lids.

"EGLE asked EPA to take another look to see if they were missing something, and they were not," Kelly said, adding, "...I know that the community doesn’t like the site – that it’s a blight, a nuisance and that you would not be allowed to [dump in an unlined landfill] today – but the risks to the community are relatively low.”

Residents said they’re not surprised by the EPA’s assessment but still want to see the site cleaned up to protect "one of Michigan's greatest assets."

Read the full EPA report here: Removal Site Evaluation Report - Paradise Landfill Site.pdf

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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