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Power company to clean up polluted Ashland on-land site

ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) — Northern States Power Co.-Wisconsin could start cleaning up a 40-acre contaminated site along the Lake Superior shore in Ashland later this year, under an agreement announced Wednesday.

Officials from NSP-Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said they have signed the settlement, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Madison.

Under the agreement, NSP-Wisconsin will provide money for the on-land cleanup, which is expected to cost $40 million and take two to three years.

A predecessor to NSP-Wisconsin operated a manufactured gas plant at the site on the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior between 1885 and 1947. Sawmills, railroads and a city wastewater treatment plant also have used the site over the past century.

The agreement also requires Eau Claire-based NSP-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy company, to transfer about 900 acres of land along the Iron River to the DNR and 400 acres within the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to the Bad River tribe. Those parcels, worth about $1.9 million, will be preserved by the state and the tribe. Pollution from the site has harmed natural resources in the area, such as fisheries in Chequamegon Bay and its rivers, federal officials said.

The state of Wisconsin also will transfer 114 acres of land to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. That land also will be managed to preserve natural resources.

NSP-Wisconsin president and CEO Mark Stoering said the company is pleased with the agreement.

“While challenging, this project provides a unique opportunity to continue to work together so we can leverage the city’s waterfront development plan and revitalize this once heavily industrialized area into a place that provides benefits for the entire community,” Stoering said in a statement. NSP-Wisconsin will continue to work with others responsible for contamination “to reach agreement on their financial obligations for cleanup costs,” Stoering said.

Federal officials and NSP-Wisconsin said no decisions have been made yet about how to clean up contaminated sediment in the bay.

The on-land cleanup includes removing soil in Kreher Park and an adjacent bluff and installing recovery wells designed to remove pollution from the Copper Falls aquifer, officials said. The EPA will oversee the work.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed agreement.

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