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Asbestos Found At Old Mine Smelter Site

Jun 28, 2004 | AP

Federal officials are blocking public access to the old Quincy Smelting Works grounds because of asbestos contamination.

In tests this month, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that about half of the 27 buildings and eight outdoor locations at the Houghton County site have asbestos that could be broken into particles and inhaled.

Some of the outdoor sites are within a few feet of a state snowmobile trail, said Ralph Dollhopf, the EPA's on-site coordinator.

The endangered section of trail has been closed, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau are seeking an alternative route, The Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton reported Monday.

The smelter, built in 1898, was run by the Quincy Mining Co. until area mines closed in the late 1960s. Franklin Township now owns the site.

The EPA discovered the asbestos while overseeing removal of chemical containers at the site.

"The more we see, the more we don't like the picture in terms of the amount of asbestos that seems to be there," Dollhopf said.

The EPA is building a 7-foot, chain-link fence around the site.

It's uncertain how much asbestos is in the buildings, but it is difficult to contain because the structures are deteriorating, Dollhopf said.

The site closure stalls plans by the township and the Keweenaw National Historical Park to repair and renovate the building for tours and interpretation projects.

"Its the best remaining example of 19th century copper smelting works in North America, perhaps the world," said Steve DeLong, landscape architect with the historical park.

The township is seeking state or federal assistance to clear out the asbestos, Superisor Glenn Ekdahl said.

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