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    Keweenaw

    National Historical Park Michigan

Keweenaw NHP Works Toward Smelter Revitalization

Remains of the Quincy Copper Smelting Complex on Portage Lake.
Remains of the Quincy Copper Smelting Complex on Portage Lake.
NPS Photo, Dan Johnson

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Date: January 4, 2010
Contact: Tom Baker, Management Assistant, (906) 483-3016

(Hancock, MI) The National Park Service at Keweenaw National Historical Park is working with EPA, Franklin Township, and numerous other stakeholders to remediate the Quincy Smelting Works and plan for appropriate and beneficial future uses of the site. The EPA has provided the services of a facilitator from its IDIQ contractor, E2 Inc. to assist the group in its efforts.

EPA and E2 suggested that a steering committee be formed among the various stakeholders during a reuse planning workshop in July. The group has followed through by establishing the Quincy Smelter Revitalization Steering Committee and self-appointing 24 members as well as eight non-voting resource members. Park Superintendent Jim Corless and Keweenaw NHP Advisory Commission Executive Director Scott See sit on the six-member Executive Committee, which will be meeting monthly to develop a reuse plan.

The Quincy Smelting Works, located in the Quincy Unit of Keweenaw National Historical Park, is believed to be the most intact nineteenth century copper smelter remaining in the country, and possibly the world. Although the site is owned by Franklin Township, its national significance and Keweenaw NHP's General Management Plan dictate significant involvement on the part of the NPS in its remediation and reuse.

The site's successful revitalization is expected to have a profoundly positive impact on Franklin Township, the neighboring twin cities of Hancock and Houghton, Houghton County, and the entire Keweenaw Peninsula. The task facing the Quincy Smelting Works Revitalization Steering Committee is to find the balance of historic preservation and appropriate commerce at the site.

The project is of keen interest to U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representative Bart Stupak, and Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm, State Senator Mike Prusi, and State Representative Mike Lahti, all of whom have representatives sitting on the Steering Committee. The Smelter site is indicative of the monumental efforts necessary to preserve and interpret the nationally significant story of copper mining on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the site of one of the nation's first significant mining rushes, which began in 1843.

The 25-acre NHL site consists of 28 buildings and hundreds of industrial artifacts, many of which had been left in situ. The buildings are in varying states of disrepair as the copper smelting operations ceased about 40 years ago. Since then, the site has been mostly vacant with only minor maintenance work undertaken.

In 2004/2005, EPA’s Emergency Response Division conducted a removal action at the site to address assorted containers and hazardous substances. During the removal, an asbestos survey documented the presence of friable asbestos inside and outside most of the site buildings. To prevent public exposure to friable asbestos the EPA constructed a perimeter fence to control site access, abated asbestos outside the fence, and conducted activity-based sampling. In 2008, accelerated building deterioration lead to EPA's determination that the continued presence of asbestos inside the fence posed the potential for public exposure. EPA conducted a second asbestos removal action in June 2008 to address the balance of the material

Following that action, and intervention from Senator Levin, EPA and E2 worked with Franklin Township, the NPS, and other interested stakeholders to plan for remediation of the site and for appropriate and beneficial future uses of the property. Subsequently, Congress provided statutory aid to Franklin Township via a FY2009 $285,000 HUD grant and a FY2010 $1,000,000 Keweenaw NHP pass-through for remediation and preservation work at the site.

There have been additional grass-roots fundraising efforts by the Quincy Smelter Association and the 501(c)(3) arm of the Keweenaw NHP Advisory Commission, Copper Country Preservation, Inc. NPS staff are providing technical assistance to the township for project scoping, environmental compliance, and contracting actions for the continued remediation and preservation of the Quincy Smelting Works site. Through the establishment of the Steering Committee, the broad-based, coordinated efforts of a relatively small community coupled with the support and resources of all of its stakeholders will result in solutions that will move the project forward to preserve and interpret this nationally significant resource.

For additional information, please call park headquarters at (906) 337-3168 or email us.

Did You Know?

Photo: Float copper on exhibit in Calumet

During the ice ages, glaciers ripped chunks of copper away from exposed rock outcrops and then carried the copper sometimes long distances before depositing them. These loose pieces are referred to as float copper.