Nowhere in her angry, partisan, defensive and then-back-tracking emails and statements this week does DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp - - and you can see her reckless pattern in this posting she wrote in 2009 that ripped the DNR (and her own credibility) - - indicate any understanding of an essential problem with the proposed open-pit iron ore mine up North: its proximity to drinking water supplies as well as historic food-producing, wild rice growing waters.
The information is hardly a secret.
The water that flows off the iron-rich Penokee Hills feeds the Penokee aquifer and the Bad River watershed, which flows into Lake Superior and provides drinking water for the city of Ashland and nearby towns. The water also feeds the wild rice beds of the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe. Wild rice is a sacred plant for the Ojibwe and an important food source. The tribe’s wild rice beds are the largest in the state," [UW-La Crosse professor Al] Gedicks writes .And the basic questions have been posed before, according to writer and activist Nick Vander Puy:
Well, just to be clear and coherent about mining in the north woods , if you remember from high school chemistry, sulfide bearing rock exposed to water and hydrogen and oxygen in the mining process forms H2SO4. That’s sulfuric acid. The mining raises this toxin to the surface and into the water table. This toxin leaks into the eco-system and poisons life.I would love to see Stepp address thise questions and concerns, and comment on specifics raised in a statement from former DNR Secretary George Meyer last week about the bill and its risks, too.
Ever see wild rice growing downstream from a successfully, reclaimed metallic sulfide mine? Ask the mining companies to point towards one.
So the larger question becomes not whether these mines will pollute, but what is the level of “acceptable” poisoning to the earth.
AB 426 would have allowed the destruction of State Natural Areas, which are the most unique and valuable lands remaining in Wisconsin and include the Cedarburg Bog, Peninsula Park White Cedar Forest, the Upper Brule River, Trout Lake Conifer Swamp and the Dalles of the St. Croix River. Current mining regulations protect these areas. AB 426 also would quadruple the area where the groundwater adjacent to the mining site could be polluted greatly in excess of state standards. That is a major change from current mining laws.At a legislative hearing, Meyer and others were quoted saying:
Meyer, currently the executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said anyone who knows anything about rock formations can simply look at the site where the $1.5 billion mine is being proposed to see there are other rock materials on top of the iron ore that will be problematic.Here's another question:
[George] Skulan added that when a material like pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold, mixes with oxygen, it becomes a toxic substance that also would go unregulated, causing pollution to nearby waterways.
"There may well be as much pyrite as there is ore," Skulan said. "But the mining company is saying ‘No. This is just an iron ore mine.'"
Is it good for the state if the critics of the bill are more familiar with the lands and waters involved than is the current DNR Secretary?