DNR considers public comment on Howard's Bay cleanup plan

Remediation project saves costs with the use of the closed Superior landfill.
Plans are progressing for a project that will clean up contaminants in Howard's Bay by Fraser Shipyards. It is the largest cleanup on the Wisconsin side of the St. Louis River Area of Concern. (Jed Carlson /

Plans for cleaning up the largest Area of Concern on the Wisconsin side of the St. Louis River are coming together as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources considers permits that will allow the city of Superior to use less contaminated sediment from the project to cover a long-closed landfill on Wisconsin Point.

The DNR held a public hearing Tuesday, March 3, as part of its review of the city’s application.

The $18 million project that will clean up contamination in Howard’s Bay by Fraser Shipyards. Superior’s contribution to that project, valued at $2.6 million, will save $1.4 million on the overall cost by using 80,000-90,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment to cover the long-closed Wisconsin Point Landfill, saving the project disposal costs and sparing local taxpayers the potential $1.2 million in costs if replacing the landfill cap became necessary.

City crews will also repair Moccasin Mike Road after the project is complete; project partners will pay for materials.

The city is the only partner in the project that will be providing strictly in-kind contributions to the project, said Darienne McNamara, the city’s environmental regulatory manager. About 65% of the cost will be paid for with federal dollars with the state of Wisconsin and Fraser Shipyards contributing to the remaining 35% of project costs.


“There’s two different things that will be going on,” McNamara said. “We’re going to be dredging the shipping channel and then dredging outside the shipping channel to address contamination.”

Dredge material from the shipping channel will be stored at Erie Pier for reuse while residential and industrial grade sediment will be taken to the Wisconsin Point Landfill to slope the area and address shallow spots and depressions that have developed since the landfill closed in 1977. The most contaminated soils will be capped on-site.

The city has had problems at the Wisconsin Point Land with garbage poking through and has spent about $60,000 to repair the cap once, McNamara said. This project would allow the city to avoid future costs associated with repairing the cap, she said.

Dredge material that will be accepted at the closed landfill will meet the same standards as those used for residential or industrial sites, McNamara said. She said that will be capped with a 6-inch layer of clean dredge material and 6 inches of clean topsoil.

The plan calls for planting the area and creating a low-impact recreational area on the site of the old landfill.

The Howard’s Bay Remediation Project was developed over more than five years to address lead, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), mercury and tributyltin that has accumulated in the sediment from industry and stormwater outfalls into the bay over decades.

The primary issue in Howard’s Bay is lead from roadways when lead gas was still used and lead paint used at the shipyard, McNamara said.

About 98% of the contamination is lead-related, with small amounts of PAHs, mercury and tributyltin, according to more than 500 samples taken since 2007 at 160 locations.


“It’s a really high sampling density within Howard’s Bay,” McNamara said. “There have been a lot of sampling sets that show where the contaminants are and levels of concentration.”

In addition to Tuesday’s public hearing on the project, the Superior City Council granted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to city land so the project can be completed.

Exactly when the project will get underway remains uncertain.

Sonny Zentner, waste management engineer for the Wisconsin DNR, said the start of the project will depend on approval of applications for permits, the timing of the bidding process and the schedule of the contractor doing the work. Zentner said he is still accepting comments on the permits through Friday, March 6.

Comments can be sent to Zentner at or call 715-839-3728.

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