Save the Wild U.P. held a panel discussion Monday night to discuss the Eagle Mine’s new groundwater discharge permit.
SWUP President President Kathleen Heideman said the Eagle Mine’s new groundwater discharge permit does not protect ground and surface water.
“Some of the contaminates that they’re checking for in the groundwater are maxing out at the EPA’s enforceable limit,” she said. “This has nothing to do relate to how the background natural levels at the site were found in 2004.”
“Here we have a mine that is coming on board, and they have the potential to pump out a lot more metals and contaminates into Lake Superior, and particularly the Salmon Trout River,” Keweenaw Bay Indian Community environmental mining specialist Chuck Brumleve said.
In 2004, contaminant levels were barely detectable. Now, levels are higher but the mine is claiming it’s related to the groundwater and soil’s natural state.
“Those mine cores are what’s there,” former federal oil regulator Jeffery Loman said. “And what’s in those mine cores, what’s in that material, is what you want to monitor for.”
SWUP claims the Eagle Mine’s water permit shows a number of minerals that are above the recommended amount from the EPA, and regulations are changing to accommodate the mine. There are 47 exceedances at the mine’s compliance wells, including copper, lead, and arsenic.
“They (the Eagle Mine) shouldn’t be allowed to continue the activity. It should not be the other way around,” environmental attorney Michelle Halley said. “It shouldn’t be the other way around. If they can’t meet the limit then the activity needs to stop, at least until they can figure out a way to meet the permit guidelines.”
SWUP also claims that the contaminants from the mine end up in the water system.
“There is such a potential for harm and damage to the area, and the Yellow Dog Plains are only twenty miles from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Reservation,” Brumleve said. “It’s an area that that the tribal members have used in the past and we’d like to continue using for hunting, fishing, and gathering.”
“These discharges go through this rapid infiltration system and by every experts opinion, presents themselves to the surface, and then come into contact with seeps, springs, the wetlands, and the east branch of the Salmon Trout River,” Loman said.
The Eagle Mine released a statement to ABC 10 about its groundwater discharge permit:
“Eagle has never received a Notice of Violation (NOV) from state regulators. Monitoring data has proven that even before any construction activities occurred onsite, vanadium and pH levels were in excess of the permit limits in the monitoring wells, thus the reason why the permit limits needed to be changed.”
The Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public hearing about the mine’s permit March 25 at Westwood High School. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.