Monday, February 3, 2020

Lower Menominee River cleanup hailed while big open-pit mine upriver nears approval

Imagine you live on a popular lake where authorities have finally cleaned up a chemical complex's contamination - - only to find out clean water 'regulators' are going to let an insecticide factory build on the other side of the water.

OK - - not an actual insecticide factory - - just a deed, open-pit metals mine which could release pollutants into a river listed in 2017 as one of America's Most Endangered.
In recognition of Earth Day, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin applauded American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based conservation group, for including the Menominee River to its 2017 America’s Most Endangered Rivers List.
According to the Menominee Indian Tribe, the conservation group included the Menominee River to the list because of the proposed Back Forty Mine, which is planned to be an open metallic, sulfide mine located 150 feet from the banks of the river, near Lake Township, Michigan. 
Read on.

The Wisconsin DNR Monday is hailing the long effort to remova pollutants from the Lower Menominee River, a federally-designated waterway Area of Concern, or AOC.
MADISON, Wis. - After 30 years of pollution cleanup and restoration efforts, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) are proposing to remove the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern from a list of the 43 most polluted places on the Great Lakes.
Sources of pollutants were controlled by improving industry practices and removing contaminated sediments within the boundaries of the AOC. Cleanup efforts took place at the Lloyd Flanders paint sludge site from 1993 through 1998, where 30 million pounds of hazardous waste and contaminated sediment were removed from Green Bay. 
Major cleanup in the Lower Menominee River included removing 302,000 cubic yards of arsenic-impacted sediments at the Ansul/Tyco site, plus removing 15,000 cubic yards of coal tar wastes at the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation site between 2012 and 2015. The final AOC cleanup step was removing 59,000 cubic yards of contaminated and excess sediment from Menekaunee Harbor from 2014 through 2015.
In addition to pollution cleanup, many habitat restoration projects were also completed in the AOC. For example, fish passage was restored over the Park Mill and Menominee dams in 2016, returning an 18-mile stretch of prime spawning habitat for lake sturgeon. More than 133 acres of shorelands, wetlands and uplands were restored at Menekaunee Harbor and the South Channel, providing vital habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife. 
Yet we know that Michigan and the US EPA want to approve a permitting process to allow a heavily-contaminating sulfide mining project on the same river upstream:
Wisconsin activists again take to Michigan media over toxic mining planned for the Menominee River along the WI-WI border. Note the comment process link, too:
Alert citizens are warning us that an ill-advised proposal for a massive metallic sulfide gold mine located on the banks of the Menominee River, an important tributary of Lake Michigan, would bring intolerable and long lasting risks...
The Walker 'chamber of commerce mentality' DNR had disengaged from any regulatory interest even though the project would threaten state water supplies and native culture. 
More from the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, here
As a result of our undeniable ties and long occupation of the Menominee River area, we have numerous sacred sites and burial mounds up and down the Menominee River, including the area of the proposed Back Forty Mine.... we also know that water is essential to life. 
The Menominee River is, in fact, the very origin of life for the Menominee people. It also provides life to Michigan and Wisconsin residents and the natural wildlife within the Great Lakes ecosystem. 
The harmful threats to this area and all who depend on it far outweigh the corporate interests of a Canadian exploratory company and justify the denial of the necessary permits for the proposed mine. 
The Menominee Nation is steadfast in its opposition to the proposed mine and its commitment to preserving the Menominee River. We ask you to stand in solidarity with us as we continue our fight to protect our place of origin, our sacred sites, the wildlife, water and environment for future generations. 
Walker's DNR had waived any interest in intervening, though there has been bi-partisan opposition in Wisconsin since 2017:
Bi-partisan opposition to the proposed mine is growing in Northeast Wisconsin due to increasing concerns about the potential harm it could cause to the Menominee River and Green Bay as well as the employees and businesses that depend on those waterways for their livelihood.  Several city councils and county boards including Brown County and the City of Marinette have passed similar resolutions opposing the mine.
“[State Senator Dave] Hansen said...."Because it is a sulfide mine the potential for great harm to our lakes, rivers and Green Bay is significant. 
The mine could result in polluting the river, the Bay and area drinking water, not to mention the harm it could have on our area tourism industry and the families who earn their living from it.”
And Walker's DNR in 2017 had fallen into line. Call it regional 'cooperation.'
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has no authority over Aquila permitting. However, a DNR staff review of a permit Aquila was issued in April to discharge storm water and treated waste water into the Menominee River indicated it met Wisconsin standards, said DNR spokesman Jim Dick.
More data, sources and citations are here:

  • The open pit would be as deep as five Statues of Liberty standing on top of each other. Milling would leave behind a permanent tailings impoundment at least 140 feet tall, with walls made of (reactive) waste rock, holding 4.9 million cubic meters of wet tailings. The tailings dam uses the risky “upstream” design that has resulted in catastrophic dam failures around the world. The mine’s total footprint covers 1087 acres....
  • Because the Back Forty would be a sulfide mine, it threatens to leach sulfuric acid, which is extremely hazardous to freshwater rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater. The Center for Science in Public Participation warns that the mine’s “ARD (Acid Rock Drainage) risk is very high. Most material contains sulfides… (…) All tailings are expected to generate acid, with the exception of tailings produced in year 3 of mining. Additionally, over 75% of the waste rock is expected to generate acid.” Sulfide mining could pollute groundwater or devastate the Menominee River, which drains into Lake Michigan.
And there is additional, related information at this blog post
The corrupted behavior of federal and Michigan officials and the environmental protection agencies they have handed over to corporate control is now on full display as toxic metallic mining appears imminent on the shoreline of the Menominee River - - 
Menominee River | Tom Young
- - and close to Lake Michigan, the Detroit Free Press is reporting.
Upper Peninsula mine approved despite major concerns from DEQ and EPA staff, records show
Over and over, Michigan environmental regulators sounded alarms as they reviewed a proposed large, open-pit ore mine in the Upper Peninsula near the Menominee River, prized for walleye fishing and a major tributary to Lake Michigan.  
The mine would send acidic mining wastes into the river and surrounding waterways, which would then spill into the Great Lake, staff said. More acres of wetlands would be harmed than the mining company was projecting, evaluators found.
Then the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and then-Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the mine anyway.
I have followed this threat to the Menominee River and posting about it several times, including here and earlier, here.
Mine opponents put up this display on Lakeshore State Park visible from Summerfest in 2017.  

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