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Friday, May 19, 2017

Portage Library to host "Sea Change: Addressing Climate Change on Lake Superior" May 22; local Citizens' Climate Lobby chapter to meet

The Portage Lake District Library will host "Sea Change: Addressing Climate Change on Lake Superior" with the Gordon family and crew at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 22. Their boat will be docked near the library between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, for tours. The local chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the library. (Poster courtesy Citizens' Climate Lobby)

HOUGHTON -- The Gordon family -- Mark and Katya Gordon and their two daughters, Cedar and Lamar -- return to Houghton for another presentation on "Sea Change: Addressing Climate Change on Lake Superior" at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 22, 2017, in the Portage Lake District Library community room. At 7:30 p.m. the local chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby will join the discussion and hold a meeting. All are welcome.

Sea Change is an ambitious three-year sailing and community-building project that takes youth sailing around Lake Superior in order to enhance climate change awareness and education, do citizen science, and build alliances in communities around the shores of Lake Superior.

The Gordons will share the story of their liveaboard sailing experiences and discuss climate science as it relates to the changing eco-systems of Lake Superior and its surrounding coasts. They will also suggest climate solutions including carbon pricing.

The public is invited to go on board the Gordons' custom-built 40 ft. steel sailboat, Amicus II, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23. The sailboat will be docked at the Houghton public docks.

Since 2010 the Gordons have been taking youth and young adults sailing with them on voyages lasting from four days to three months. Students experience the immensity and wildness of Lake Superior while they study, collect, and record data to support climate change research on the lake.

Click here to learn more about their Sea Change Expeditions.

Following the Gordons' presentation on Monday, members of the Citizens' Climate Lobby will join the discussion about climate change and hold their monthly meeting. Citizens' Climate Lobby is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. They train and support volunteers to engage elected officials, the media, and the public in order to generate the political will necessary for passage of their Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.*

* Watch for an article on the Citizens' Climate Lobby, coming soon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Michigan Tech News: The Sugarbush Diaries: 73 Taps, 500 Gallons, 12 Dozen Bottles of Made-in-Alberta Deliciousness

By Cyndi Perkins, Michigan Tech Web Writer
Posted Apr. 19, 2017, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted in part with permission

Michigan Tech Instructor Tara Bal is pictured here with the wood-fired evaporator used to bring sap to its optimal boiling temperature. Bal, whose PhD work centers on sugar maples, and who remembers syrup-making from growing up in a tightknit Amish community, didn't like to see it sitting there unused at the Ford Forestry Center in Alberta. She wrote a development grant for a non-traditional online course, which includes a fieldwork component and has the added benefit of introducing students to forestry and biology, including how tree physiology relates to sap flow. (Photo © and courtesy Cyndi Perkins)

Plonk. Plonk. Plonk. The sap drips hitting the bottom of galvanized buckets in Preacher Park are louder than the raindrops on an April weekend at Michigan Tech's Ford Forestry Center.

The buckets aren't full yet (at time of this writing). But across US-41, Tara Bal's maple syrup management and culture class is collecting from the sugarbush maples that line the streets of Alberta Village. The trees look a little like hospital patients receiving IV drips. Some bear rectangular blue sacks; you can see the clear liquid inside. Flexible, thin blue tubing protrudes from the tap holes on others, snaking down into white plastic buckets.

Students also learn a second boiling method: In the Native American tradition, Jamie Opsahl uses heated rocks to bring sap to the boiling point in a hollowed-out maple log. (Photo © and courtesy Cyndi Perkins)

But tapping doesn't hurt the trees, says Bal, a research assistant professor in Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES) -- you can pinpoint her location by following the smoke billowing above the Sugar Shack, out back of the research, education and conference center's dining hall and dorms. ... Ford Forestry Center, the planned community of Alberta built by Henry Ford, is graced with fine maple specimens. How long has syrup been made here?

"As long as Ford was here, and before that, the Anishinabe," says Bal....

Click here for the full article on Michigan Tech News. This article also received attention in Lake Superior Magazine's June/July 2017 issue.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

DEQ staff to hold 2017 open house on Torch Lake Abandoned Mining Wastes Project May 16 in Lake Linden

From Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality and Amy Keranen, Abandoned Mining Wastes Project manager

During the May 2016 open house, Abandoned Mining Wastes Project Manager Amy Keranen, right, DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division, talks about educating the public about the project with visitors from Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK), from left, Catherine Andrews and FOLK President Linda Rulison. Keranen and DEQ staff will hold their 2017 open house on the project this Tuesday, May 16, at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School Auditorium. (Keweenaw Now file photo)
LAKE LINDEN -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) invites the public to an informal open house from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School Auditorium to learn about the project findings and next steps for the Abandoned Mining Wastes Project.

The focus of the Abandoned Mining Wastes (AMW) Project is the investigation of mining-era chemical containers and residues historically discarded in or near Torch Lake. Work to date has included a review of historic studies, on-land and in-lake investigative activities, and a series of remedial actions.

The DEQ Abandoned Mining Wastes (AMW) project team will be available to share their findings with the community and to answer questions during the May 16 open house.

This project team consists of staff involved in the planning, fieldwork, interim responses, and reporting for the project; the DEQ sampling crew who conducted investigative activities; and the On-Scene Coordinator from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emergency Response Branch (ERB) who is managing two projects in the Lake Linden area. Project area maps and photos will be on display to show where the team conducted their work, what they have found, and what they have planned.

Contact DEQ staff at 906-337-0389 for more information.

Notes from the Desk of Amy Keranen: Spring 2017 Newsletter

In her latest newsletter, Amy Keranen, DEQ project manager for the Abandoned Mining Wastes - Torch Lake project, gives an update on the DEQ's AMW project, including recent referrals to the EPA Emergency Response Branch. The following information is taken from this Spring 2017 Newsletter:

Lake Linden Recreation Area Sediments

Removal of contaminated sediment from Lake Linden Recreation Area. (Photos courtesy Amy Keranen)

Evaluation of results of several key studies conducted at the Lake Linden Recreation Area (LLRA) between 2005 and 2015 concluded that contamination exceeding health-based and ecological criteria extends outward from the area along the shore, which was the focus of a 2007 emergency removal (pictured above). Based on these findings, in January 2017, the DEQ requested EPA Emergency Response assistance to address the contaminated sediments at the LLRA site. The EPA is currently evaluating the existing information to determine what next steps are necessary.

Calumet Stamp Mill Asbestos

Asbestos removal near foundations of the Houghton County Historical Society Museum in Lake Linden. 

The EPA ERB from Grosse Ile, Michigan, continues to work with Honeywell Specialty Materials and the Houghton County Historical Society to remove asbestos near the foundations at the Museum in Lake Linden. Work started in October 2016, and cleanup activities will be completed by this summer. Mr. Brian Kelly, who manages these projects for the EPA ERB, will be at the May 16th Open House.

Quincy Mining Co. Mason Area: Focus of 2017 Field Investigation

 Quincy Reclamation Plant ruins in Mason.

In 2016, the AMW project team started looking at the third and final stretch of the Torch Lake shoreline -- the Quincy Mining Co. area in Mason. They reviewed existing data, completed preliminary reconnaissance activities, conducted a side scan sonar survey and recorded underwater video using a remotely operated vehicle. Based on the comprehensive review, a Sampling and Analysis Plan has been developed to assist in the identification of historic areas of contamination or data gaps requiring further assessment. This plan will be implemented during 2017; and, depending on the findings, interim response actions may be undertaken to reduce the public’s potential for exposure to mining era wastes.

2017 Remediation Projects

Investigations at the former Hubbell Smelter property and on the south side of the Tamarack Sands confirmed that debris has been buried under the soil cap constructed on the stamp sands during the Torch Lake Superfund project. Investigations also show polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated soils are eroding into Torch Lake at the former Hubbell Coal Dock property. To address the conditions in these three areas, interim response actions have been designed and will be implemented during 2017 following completion of contracting and permitting activities.

Drums are visible sticking out into Torch Lake from beneath the Superfund soil cap near the former Hubbell Smelter property. The drums that contain PCBs and hazardous levels of lead will be removed and disposed. This removal is planned for May 2017.

This photo shows one of the seep areas where fluid wastes are coming up from likely buried drums that have decomposed beneath the Superfund soil cap in the Tamarack Sands. The seeping wastes that contain high concentrations of solvents and chemicals, not typically associated with mining related industry, will be removed and disposed. This area will be excavated for proper disposal in May/June 2017.

This photo depicts surface water runoff and erosion of PCB-contaminated soils into Torch Lake from the Coal Dock PCB Burn Area. A project to address these concerns by capping the area and improving the drainage from the site is being planned for this summer, 2017.

Work planned for 2017 
  •  Implement the Quincy Mining Co. Mason Sampling and Analysis Plan, prepare a Site Investigation Report, and undertake interim response actions if needed.
  •  Implement interim response actions in the Hubbell Processing Area (Shoreline Drums and Coal Dock PCB Burn Area) and Tamarack Sands.
  • Prepare summary reports documenting all aspects of the 2016 and 2017 Emergency Response Actions.
  • Honeywell Specialty Materials, under EPA ERB oversight, will continue to remove asbestos near the foundations at the Museum in Lake Linden.
  • EPA ERB will proceed with removal assessment activities related to the Lake Linden Recreation Area.
  • All project documents will be posted on the Abandoned Mining Wastes Project Web site as they are finalized.*
If you have questions, any information regarding historic waste issues or concerns you wish to discuss, please contact Amy Keranen at

* Click here for the DEQ Abandoned Mining Wastes Project Web site.