Sediment cleanup refreshes East EndRows of neat houses and well-maintained yards make up much of East End.
By: By JENNIFER SIMONSON, The Daily Telegram
Rows of neat houses and well-maintained yards make up much of East End. It’s obvious that the neighbors take pride in their neighborhood. Today, a passer-by would hardly notice Murphy Oil Refinery just a few blocks from this quiet neighborhood. But only a few years ago, anyone with a nose could tell that some industry was nearby. The smell of oil hung heavy in the air.
Today, after the completion of a $6.3 million clean-up of contaminated sediments from nearby Hog Island and Newton Creek, East Enders are breathing the fresh air.
“It sure smells a lot better around here,” Charles LeMieux said. “It smelled like oil. We used to put our canoe in and we would paddle out the mouth of the Nemadji around Hog Island and up Newton Creek. If you stuck your paddle into the ground, you’d pull out big black, gooey sludge, and it would reek.”
The clean-up project, completed in November 2005, removed 3,232 truckloads of muck, about 60,000 tons, from the inlet and creek mouth. The area was contaminated by industrial waste from Murphy Oil and from Lakehead Pipeline that included lead and petroleum products. Sixty-five percent of the clean-up cost was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and 35 percent by the state. Murphy Oil contributed $200,000.
But besides dealing with the contaminated sediments, the EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources want to return the area to its natural state and encourage the animals, critters, bugs and birds to return. When the clean-up began, DNR hydro-geologist Jim Hosch said only one pollution-tolerant species was able to survive in Newton Creek.
“One type of worm lived there, and that was all,” he said. “Now we’ve seen sunfish and a variety of water insects. We’re seeing a lot of species come back.”
“It’s just so nice to be able to go down there and there’s no odor,” LeMieux said. “I see blue herons and deer.”
A 125-page Ecological Restoration Master Plan has been drafted to address continuing efforts to restore nearby waters and Newton Creek to a more balanced environment. The DNR’s goal is to make the inlet a better fishery than it was.
“It should be a much better situation,” Hosch said. “It’s an ongoing process. It takes time for vegetation and native species to re-establish themselves.”
“Hog Island, Hog Island Inlet and Newton Creek are extremely important for local and migratory fish and wildlife populations,” it says in the plan. “The restoration of these areas presents opportunities to provide essential habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, control invasive vegetation and other threats to ecological viability, further improve local water and sediment quality and provide passive recreation and an aesthetic amenity for the city of Superior.”
The plan is divided into four major goals:
• Improve water sediment quality conditions in Newton Creek and Hog Island Inlet and reduce the threat of future contamination.
• Conserve and protect ecologically-sensitive habitats.
• Restore selected ecosystem components in a manner that is consistent with the ecological restoration guiding principles.
• In conjunction with restoration activities, create recreational, education and environmental stewardship activities for city of Superior and Douglas County residents.
A copy of the plan can be seen at www.biohabitats.com/hogisland/index.php