more from the houghton planning commission hearing...

January 26, 2021

You should know that although the Michigan Smelter site at the Cole’s Creek Sands was compared to the Isle Royale Sands and other relatively benign stamp sand sites, the Michigan Smelter site IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

It was mentioned that the homes at the Isle Royale Sands had basements and walkouts. This is NOT POSSIBLE at the Cole’s Creek Sands as the water table is 12-18 inches below the surface and the hazmat is 4-5 feet below that. The Isle Royale Sands are much deeper and they DO NOT CONTAIN HAZMAT!!!

The EPA Michigan Smelter Site in OU III provides a protective cap over smelter SLAG. Slag is the WASTE PRODUCT of the smelting and refining process, NOT CRUSHED MINEROCK as in regular stamp sand.

The Michigan Smelter was the largest copper smelter in Michigan producing over 300,000 pounds of copper PER DAY. This made for a lot of hazardous waste product containing arsenic, heavy metals and dangerous organic compounds. All of this “slag” is safely capped under sterile stamp sand, dirt, and vegetative cover.

The Michigan Smelter was compared to the other two smelter sites. Again, they are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The other two other smelter sites are not being re-zoned to allow large scale excavation for commercial buildings. .

Houghton Planning Commission Hearing

January 26, 2021

It was mentioned at the January 26 Houghton Planning Commission Meeting that Michigan Smelter site has been “delisted” or “deleted” from the EPA Torch Lake Superfund. Although this was put forward as through it somehow justified the re-zoning of the Cole’s Creek Sands, IT DOES NOT.

What effect does this “delisting” or “deleting” have on the decision to re-zone this environmentally sensitive area? – NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER!!!

Delisting or Deleting the Michigan Smelter area from the EPA Superfund simply means the responsibility for monitoring, maintaining, and repairing the protective cap over the hazardous material has passed to Michigan EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy)


• It does not mean that the hazardous material has somehow “gone away” or is no longer harmful.

• It does not mean that the Michigan Smelter site does not present an UNACEPTABLE CANCER RISK.

• It does not mean that large scale excavation would not put hazardous substances into the air and the water.

• It does not mean that arsenic, heavy metals, and dangerous organic compounds are not still protectively capped under 4 feet of sterile stamp sand, 12 inches of earth, and a vegetative cover.

The re-zoning in Ordinance 2020-314 allows for the construction of up to a 5-story major hotel in this environmentally sensitive area. The amount of excavation necessary for large scale construction of this type could potentially destroy the protective cap put in place by the EPA Superfund and open a “Pandora’s Box” of hazmat upon the community.



The area is currently correctly zoned as R-1 (Single Family Residence)

Houghton City Ordinance 2020-314 would re-zone the Canal Cole's Creek Estates from R-1 (Single Family Homes) to B-2 (Community Business) permitting the construction of a major 5 story hotel, restaurants, taverns, and bars. The extensive excavation of the Cole's Creek Sands necessary for this type of large scale construction would expose the hazardous materials from the Michigan Smelter capped at the site by the EPA Torch Lake Superfund. The Michigan Smelter was the largest copper smelter in Michigan producing over 300,000 pounds of copper per day. The hazardous materials from the Smelter include arsenic and heavy metals along with poisonous organic compounds.

The Michigan Smelter is the only Superfund Site with an UNACCEPTBLE cancer risk (EPA Record of Decision, 1994).

In addition, this area is protected by the Michigan NREPA, Part 323, Shorelands Protection and Management. The Cole's Creek Sands are also protected from discharges suspected to contain toxic pollutants or hazardous substances by the Federal Clean Water Act, Section 404.

In addition to potential air and water pollution, major construction in this area would add sound and light pollution along with the probability of up to 300 more vehicles PER DAY on Canal Road and in the Canal Road to M-26 intersection. The area has been zoned R-1 for the past 15 years. There are R-1 residences in the area being re-zoned and surrounding the area being re-zoned. The Hancock City Park and Beach along with R-1 residences are directly across the Portage Canal. Increased use of the Portage Canal in this area would endanger the fishing in the Cole's Creek area. Cole's Creek is a Type 1 Trout Stream.

This area is currently correctly zoned and should not be changed. We must stop Ordinance 2020-314 for the health and benefit of everyone living in the area....