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GLIN==> News Release - Health Risks Found at MN Superfund Site



                              MN SEA GRANT
                              NEWS RELEASE

DATE: 7/31/03
CONTACT: Marie Zhuikov (218) 726-7677
         mzhuikov@umn.edu

                  Health Risks Found at MN Superfund Site

A report recently completed by the University of Minnesota confirms
concerns by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe that a federal Superfund
site located along Pike Bay in Cass Lake, Minn., is not being properly
remediated.  Studies completed in the process of preparing the report
found that both human and environmental health risks exist at the site,
where a former wood preserving facility owned by St. Regis Corp. (now
International Paper Co.) used to operate.  

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe suspected that the site was never
properly studied and that clean-up actions by St. Regis Corp. were not
effective.  The three-part report encompasses panel reports on
groundwater conditions on the site, environmental health risks, and
human health risks.  Testing on the site found harmful levels of
dioxins, furans, and other compounds left behind from treating wood.
These chemicals are known cancer-causers.

- The groundwater panel recommended further investigations assessing
groundwater contaminant flow patterns in order to protect nearby ground
and surface waters. 
 
- The human health risk panel urged that steps be taken to minimize
exposure of children to the site.  The high levels of dioxins and
furans warrant closure of the area.  Because tribal members have unique
cultural practices and lifestyles, the panel recommended that a
customized human health risk assessment be performed.  

- The ecological risk panel concluded monitoring at the site was
inadequate to determine ecological impacts and that more monitoring is
needed.

The project was a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Sea
Grant Program, the Natural Resources Research Institute, and the Leech
Lake Tribal Council.  It was funded by a grant in 1998 from the U.S.
EPA's Environmental Justice Program.

"We reached out to the University and a number of experts across the
nation who were able to provide an independent review of the site and
give us recommendations," said Shirley Nordrum, Leech Lake
environmental director.  "Our concerns were confirmed by people who
don't have a vested interest in this area, and I think the process was
very valuable."

Currently, the tribe is working with the EPA, Minnesota Department of
Health, and the MPCA to negotiate with International Paper on a plan
for emergency soil removal and additional soil sampling.  The EPA is
working with the Center for Disease Control and has promised to conduct
comprehensive human health and ecological risk assessments.  Sea Grant
is working with Nordrum and others to better inform the community about
risks associated with the site's contamination.

"Superfund sites such as this one are incredibly complex and difficult
environmental issues to deal with," said Carl Richards, Minnesota Sea
Grant director.  "We're happy that the University was able to assist
the tribe and other affected parties in focusing on the essential
issues that could lead to improvement in human health and the
ecological issues surrounding the site."

The report is available on Minnesota Sea Grant's Web site at:  
www.seagrant.umn.edu/water/leech.html.

                                  --30--



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