Torch Lake is a cautionary tale of what happens when pollution goes unchecked

Of all the Areas of Concern in the Upper Peninsula, it is the Keweenaw's Torch Lake that has suffered the most at the hands of industry and mining.

The lake, on which the towns of Lake Linden and Hubbell are situated, was the site of multiple mining operations and copper processing industry all the way through the mid-20th century. The resulting contamination, which ranges from stamp sand to chemicals to heavy metals and more, left the lake an absolute mess. It was so bad, in fact, that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the technology needed to clean the lake just hasn't been invented yet.

Thankfully, work to clean Torch Lake has continued, and progress is being made. Swimming in the lake -- as long as it's done from a clean beach or by diving off a boat -- is allowed in Torch Lake, as well as limited consumption of fish from the waters.
Some of the concerns have been lifted over the years, such as a restriction due to tumors and deformities on fish.

The truth of the matter is that Torch Lake is not likely to be delisted anytime in the foreseeable future. The current recovery system -- which is being done through natural means -- will take several centuries to be fully realized. Yet technology is always improving, and work is going to continue. One day, Torch Lake will be free of the contaminants and pollution put there by companies that have come and gone.

Until then, Torch Lake will have to remain a cautionary tale of what can happen to an area if pollution and contamination by industries and others goes unchecked.

Sam Eggleston is a freelance writer and editor based in the Upper Peninsula.

This series about restoration in Michigan's Areas of Concern is made possible through support from the Michigan Office of Great Lakes through Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
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