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Cleanup of St. Louis River getting a boost from the feds, US Steel

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A plan to start cleaning up decades worth of pollution at the bottom of the St. Louis River is getting a boost from the federal government and U.S. Steel.

Together, the Environmental Protection Agency and U. S. Steel are putting $3.5 million toward a study that will choose the best option for cleaning contaminated sediment at a wide spot in the river known as Spirit Lake.

The new money will cover the study and design costs. Actual cleanup work could begin late next year, the EPA says.

As Northland's NewsCenter reports, Spirit Lake has been identified by the EPA as an "Area of Concern" because of the contaminants left there during years of industrial use.

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In 1987 the U.S. and Canada identified 43 places that drain into the Great Lakes where industrial activity had already contaminated waters before modern pollution laws were adopted in the late 20th Century. The Spirit Lake section of the St. Louis River is one of those Areas of Concern.

The location of a former U.S. Steel mill along the river (right) is now a Superfund site and is on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's equivalent list. It includes 500 acres on land and 100 acres of river sediment.

The Great Lakes Mud website says contaminants in the river include heavy metals, PCBs, and dioxins.

St. Louis River Estuary offers backgroud and a timeline of the effort to clean up the river, which was rejuvenated when the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was formed in 2010.

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