Denfeld News

Nov. 18, 2007
Duluth Budgeteer News

Stryker Bay cleanup is a dream come true
By Ralph Doty

The first time Sid Mason of Duluth saw the “goop,” as he calls it — more than 10 years ago — it was bubbling in Stryker Bay, located along the St. Louis River in West Duluth.

Mason, a former state representative and a board member at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for eight years, quickly understood why people like Dan Simonson — residents along the bay’s shore — were upset.

Wednesday night, Simonson, his neighbors and Mason attended one of the MPCA’s periodic meetings at the Evergreen Senior Center on 59th Avenue West to discuss progress in cleaning up the bay.

The work at Stryker Bay is Minnesota’s largest pollution cleanup project and one of the biggest in the nation. At Wednesday’s meeting, residents learned that the undertaking is on schedule for completion in late 2009. It’s been an 11-year effort, with the first attempt to design and get funds for the endeavor starting in 1996. After several false starts because of threats of lawsuits by the offending companies, the actual physical work got under way in July 2006.

When the job is done, the cost will exceed $60 million, or $10 million more than initial estimates.

No taxpayer money is involved. Three of the four companies formerly located on the shores of Stryker, which were responsible for the pollution, are paying for the cleanup, along with Superfund money from Minnesota and the federal government, according to Ann Moore, public information officer for the MPCA, and Jane Mosel, project manager for Stryker Bay. Their offices are located in Duluth.

The companies footing most of the costs are the former Interlake Iron Company (now doing worldwide business as GKN), Allied Signal (now owned by Honeywell), and Domtar Inc. None are currently located in Duluth. The pollution they dumped into Stryker Bay included by-products from the steel company and firms using the by-products to manufacture such things as railroad ties requiring the use of tar.

There was strong evidence the polluted sediment was oozing out of Stryker and into St. Louis Bay. Area residents complained about strong odors from the site.

The sludge — more than 140,000 cubic yards — is being removed from Stryker Bay and piped to a nearby former marine slip, now dammed. The sludge is being covered with thick layers of clean sand to prevent it from moving through the air. The sand will then be covered, or capped, to prevent wind erosion.

Simonson, 76, has lived on the shore of Stryker Bay his entire life and remembers swimming there as a child.

“The water and air smelled bad even then,” he recalled, “but we figured that was the way it was supposed to be. There was always muck on the bottom of the bay, but as a kid I wasn’t concerned.” He also recalls there was a horse slaughterhouse on Stryker’s shore.

Simonson eventually joined with his neighbors — most lived at the end of 54th to 63rd Avenues West — to pressure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the MPCA to do something to clean up the bay.

After last Wednesday’s review session, attended by about 25 people, Simonson remarked, “It’s great to see such good progress. It’s an impossible dream coming true.”

Mason, appointed by Gov. Arne Carlson in 1996 and reappointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2000 (he declined a third term), worked hard on behalf of the cleanup, and he regularly attends the West Duluth review sessions. Wednesday’s meeting was the last of the year because the project will temporarily shut down during the winter months. Work will resume next spring.

Mason said he’s pleased with progress on the project because “it’s a vindication of everyone involved in the effort.”

Several neighbors at the meeting commended the MPCA for its work on the project and remarked how minimally their lives have been interrupted by the machines and trucks used in the project.

Air and water monitoring of Stryker Bay will continue after the project is done to assure that water and air pollution in the area stays at

historic low levels, according to Gui Partsch of Barr Engineering. Parsch and Mosel said the company and MPCA are starting discussions about the extent of monitoring and how often readings will be taken.

Stryker Bay should be opened for traffic and fishing in late 2009 or early 2010, according to Tom McGann of Hard Hat Services, a project contracting company.

Find out more about the Stryker Bay project or see pictures of the progress by going online to www.slridt.com.

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