Torch Lake Area of Concern

Torch Lake is located in Houghton County in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. The western shoreline of Torch Lake provided a site for milling facilities for the mines of Calumet and Hecla (C&H) and Quincy mining companies. A total of eight mills operated at different times along the shoreline between 1860 and 1970, producing the large volume of stamp sands that were deposited into the lake (approximately 200 million metric tons).

The Torch Lake Public Advisory Committee (TLPAC) was founded in 1997 to serve as community representation during the Michigan Area of Concern (AOC) remediation, reclamation, and restoration process. Torch Lake is one of 11 active AOC sites in Michigan.

Torch Lake is also a delisted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site.

Image Credit: Michigan Sea Grant

The industrial site of copper ore processing that produced stamp sands (tailings), slag, chemical pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), and dramatic ecosystem changes during 100 years of mineral processing and reclamation, Torch Lake remains a polluted environment.

Proposed Restoration

At a technical meeting in April 2019, representatives from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy, EPA, Mannik Smith, Michigan Tech, and the PAC met to discuss next steps at the site. From that meeting a draft experimental plan has been developed to improve the density and diversity of the Torch Lake benthic community by monitoring three capped test plots and two constructed wetlands. Following experimentation, EGLE representatives will be better able to formulate final restoration plans for the site.


The proposed timeline for experimentation is as follows:

  • Conduct testing
  • Apply for grants
  • This section is not finished yet!