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Fight Over Costs At Ashland Superfund Site Headed To Court

Xcel Energy Says Ratepayers Covering More Than Their Share

Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC-BY-NC-ND)

One phase of cleanup is wrapping up at the large superfund site in Ashland and costs are being passed on to Xcel ratepayers.

Northern States Power is a subsidiary of Xcel Energy. Spokesman Brian Elwood said around 70,000 tons of contaminated soil has been treated or removed from a lakefront property it owns. Elwood said the project cost around $30 million and another $24 million will go to treat and monitor contaminated groundwater.

“Our customers are paying those costs for the ongoing cleanup,” he said. “Then, we’re working with the other responsible parties to ensure that they pay their fair share of cleanup costs at the site.”

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Elwood said their 106,000 natural gas customers in Wisconsin have been paying a portion of the cleanup bill since the late 1990s. The Xcel subsidiary is suing the city of Ashland, Ashland County and electrical contractor L.E. Myers to share in cleanup costs. Elwood said mediated discussions have been ongoing.

Ashland Mayor Deb Lewis said the city can’t afford it and that it comes down to who’s responsible.

“It doesn’t matter what was down there if it doesn’t deal with what we’re cleaning up,” Lewis said.

The city’s former wastewater treatment plant, a coal manufacturing gas plant, sawmills and a railway used to be located on the site. The EPA has said the area is contaminated with waste from the former gas plant owned by Northern States Power and other possible sources. A trial date has been set for April 27 in federal district court in Madison. Xcel recently settled with two railroads.

The company estimates around $108 million in cleanup remains.