Nov. 18, 2007
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
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.