The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is suing the city of Cass Lake in northern Minnesota over costs to clean up the St. Regis Paper Company Superfund site.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court, centers around the clean up of the site — more than a 100 acres within the city and the reservation of the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe.
For years, the paper company’s former wood treatment facility preserved raw lumber with creosote and other chemicals to use as railroad ties and phone poles. In 2003, the EPA ordered a clean up of land by International Paper, which now owns the paper company site. In 2007, the city was told it was potentially liable for clean up costs, too, because it owns a landfill within the site.
John Persell, a former state representative and the environmental policy analyst for Leech Lake, said the city didn’t know it had bought contaminated land and the lawsuit will now absolve the city of greater liability.
“This is the beginning of a court process,” he said.
If a judge signs off, the EPA and Cass Lake have agreed the city will pay $30,000 because the city is so small and limited financially. It is then expected to continue to cooperate on cleanup.
“They really want to see this property cleaned up and redeveloped,” said attorney Sara Peterson, who is representing the city. “It’s going to take cooperation from all the parties involved to get that accomplished. This is a good turning point.”