NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Shoreham Yards saga – Digging deeper


Digging deeper is generally a good thing.  For a recent post about the Shoreham Yard Site, posted in order to draw attention to public meeting sponsored by the Eastside Food Co-op, I lacked the time to dig deeply enough.  The post deserves a follow-up, probably more than one, this one concerning cleanup activities.  Digging deeper unearths some facts that underscore the need for deeper research by federal, state and city agencies concerned about the health of Northeast residents.

The state’s primary involvement with the Shoreham Yard site is the responsibility of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  In 2007 MPCA issued a significant Cleanup Update.  The Update reports that “The (Shoreham) Site was used for a variety of railroad activities since the late 1880s and it is still an active railroad facility.  Past activities included fuel storage, waste storage and reclamation, and locomotive refueling.” 

The Update separates the Yard into a number of identified sites, including the fueling area and a reclamation area. This significant study describes the site contamination and reports on cleanup plans and implementation status as of its publication in 2007. Individuals and community organizations concerned about the present status will find a lengthy listing of state, city, and railroad corporate resources.

I also tackled the Health Consultation prepared in 2007 by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services Public Health Service.  This report deals in great depth with the geology/hydrogeology of Shoreham Yard and with investigations of the soil and groundwater soil vapor.  The Health Consultation report concludes:

The Soo Line Shoreham Yard East Side site is contaminated with petroleum products and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) from over 100 years of railroad maintenance operations and releases from other businesses that handled petroleum and chemicals at the site.  Contaminated soil remains at the site and site-related contaminants exceed appropriate soil screening values in several areas, primarily at depth.  Groundwater is contaminated with petroleum products and VOC’s on and off the site.  Past exposures are difficult to quantify, and represent an indeterminate public health hazard.  Exposure to contamination from the site currently appears to be minimal, and active remediation at the site should further reduce the potential for exposure in the future.  Redevelopment at the site could lead to possible exposure in the future, although the extent of such exposure is difficult to predict.  The soil and groundwater contamination at the Soo Line Shoreham Yard East Side site therefore currently represents no apparent public health hazard.  (p. 18)

Still, a very recent assessment by the Minnesota Department of Health points to a host of significant issues still on the table.  Focus of the DOH study is that segment of the acreage identified as the McFarland and Dworsky site. (see map)  The highly technical but readable report is unequivocal in its conclusions.  The summary recommendations of the DOH study are these:

  1. MDH recommends that institutional controls defining appropriate current and future land use and limitations be developed for the site.  A more comprehensive approach to institution controls for all of Shoreham yard operations should also be considered.
  2. More site characterization is warranted if land use changes from industrial to another land use in the future.
    1. Any excavations outside remediated areas of the MF&D site and the Shoreham Yard warrant contaminant characterization and exposure mitigation
    2. The Canadian Pacific residential development proposal area should be characterized for site related PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), dioxins, furans, and PCBs before development proceeds.  These data will help determine what institutional controls and or remediation are needed for the land parcel.

As indicated in the earlier post, the Canadian Pacific has established a major repository of documents relating to Shoreham Yard.  This is an indispensable source of more current information about cleanup activities and plans.  The repository contains nearly 700 documents dating back to 1977.


The City of Minneapolis monitors Shoreham Yard cleanup activities and development plans through Community Planning and Economic Development.  Key contact person at CPED is Kevin Carroll 612 673 5181.  Responsibility for preservation of the Roundhouse remains with the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission.   The most important community player in the deliberations is the Shoreham Area Advisory Committee (SAAC) formed in 1998 as part of the court settlement between the city of Minneapolis and the Canadian Pacific Railway.  SAAC is an approachable, accessible resource that welcomes public participation in a process.  The SAAC website offers ready entry into the complexities of Shoreham Yard history and development essential to any concerned resident who wants to get involved.

Digging deeper into the massive paperwork, much of which is now available online, reveals serious contamination, conflicting agency responsibilities, and a serious challenge.  In this case at least, digging deeper into the information is well worth the effort – the stakes are real, imminent and essential to residents of Northeast Minneapolis.  Though the quantity of information seems overwhelming, the resources, including a host of involved agencies and informed citizen groups are accessible, informed and concerned.