Community response to a sustainable restoration plan for a superfund site

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Department of Biological Sciences; Department of Social Sciences


© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Large-scale copper (Cu) mining activities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula produced millions of metric tons of mining wastes also known as stamp sands. The stamp sands containing high concentrations of Cu were disposed of into several lakes connected to the Lake Superior. Eventually, as aquatic organisms in these lakes started to exhibit toxicity symptoms, the stamp sands were dredged and discarded on the lake shores. Consequently, these areas turned into degraded, marginal lands and were collectively classified as a Torch Lake Superfund site by the US EPA. Due to the lack of vegetative cover, the Cu-rich stamp sands eroded into the lakes, affecting the aquatic life. To alleviate this issue, a sustainable restoration plan (SRP) was developed and tested in a greenhouse environment prior to field implementation. Cold-tolerant oilseed crops, camelina (Camelina sativa) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), were grown on compost-fertilized stamp sands, which reduced soil erosion by acting as a vegetative cap. Oilseed plants produced normal yield, demonstrating their potential utilization as biofuel feedstock. Prior to implementing the SRP in field-scale in the Torch Lake Superfund site, a public opinion survey of the local community was conducted to understand the views of residents. Door-to-door survey was performed in July–August 2015, which yielded a response rate of 68.1%. Results showed that residents were generally concerned with stamp sand erosion into the Torch Lake and were overwhelmingly supportive of the SRP, which would not only provide environmental benefits but could boost the local economy via biofuel production. To gauge the general environmental awareness of the respondents, the survey included questions on climate change. Most of the respondents acknowledged that climate change is real and anthropogenically mediated. Having college education and a relatively high annual household income showed a positive and significant correlation with climate change awareness.

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Environmental Science and Pollution Research