Summer 2017 we believe everyone deserves clean water and clean air
NO GOING BACK T
LEGAL CHALLENGE AIMS TO SAVE RARE, PRISTINE WETLANDS BEFORE THEY'RE DESTROYED & LOST FOREVER By Evan Feinauer, Staff Attorney
here are some things in this world that, once lost, can never be regained. Endangered species. Native old growth forests. Rare and pristine wetlands. Once these things are gone, they're gone for good. On June 19, Clean Wisconsin drew a line in the sand over a Department of Natural Resources-issued permit that allows an out-of-state company to permanently destroy 16.25 acres of rare and valuable wetlands in northern Monroe County. The agency issued the permit even though it acknowledged that issuing such a permit could open the door to destruction of wetlands throughout the state. Georgia-based Meteor Timber wants to fill the wetlands so it can build a facility where sand mined nearby can be dried and shipped by rail for use in hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”) operations at crude oil wells in Texas and other parts of the country. Clean Wisconsin's lawsuit seeks to protect this wetland from permanent destruction, and close the door on a faulty permitting process that could imperil our remaining pristine wetland habitats. Wetlands are an integral part of Wisconsin’s natural heritage. Experts have long understood wetlands serve an indispensable role in our environment. They not only provide recreational space for hikers, paddlers, and birdwatchers, they also contain rare plant species and provide habitat for threatened and endangered animals. Wetlands improve water quality by filtering sediments and contaminants; and they protect homes from flooding by storing water from storms and snowmelt. These are some the reasons state law says wetlands should be
A small creek flows through a white pinered maple wetland in Jackson County. Georgia-based Meteor Timber wants to fill 16.25 acres of a similar pristine wetland in neighboring Monroe County. Photo by Dan Grudzielanek/Flickr.
continued on Page 8
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PROGRESS IN KEWAUNEE Long-awaited rules address drinking water contamination By Scott Laeser Water Program Director
Clean Wisconsin 634 W. Main St., #300 Madison, WI 53703-2500
E. coli. Salmonella. Cryptosporidium. Rotavirus A.
The list reads like an inventory of pathogens from a biomedical research lab. Unfortunately, it’s actually a list of the dangerous fecal pathogens you can find in Kewaunee County residents’ drinking water. Kewaunee County and its neighbors have a serious groundwater contamination problem. People are getting sick, and not just with a 24-hour bout of food poisoning. The
pathogens found in residents’ wells can be life-threatening, especially for young children and the elderly. We’ve all known about Kewaunee’s drinking water crisis for a long time; the newest research only confirms the risks residents have long faced while illuminating a more widespread and serious problem. A recent study found that not only are wells in areas of greater soil depth being contaminated with dangerous pathogens, but that up to 60 percent of wells tested were affected, nearly doubling the tally from previous studies. continued on Page 8
Also in this issue Metal Mining's Toxic Legacy | Scenes from Epicurean Evening Milwaukee
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At Clean Wisconsin we do our best to keep members informed on emerging environmental issues. One way we inform and mobilize our members on important issues, including our latest legislative priorities is through special appeal notices that you see in your mailbox. Special appeals look a lot like membership renewal forms, but are targeted at a specific issue that Clean Wisconsin is currently working on. These appeals include a place for donations that help support our work on that particular issue and often a place for your “statements of support.” The statement of support section is a place for you to tell decision makers how you feel about the particular issue. Clean Wisconsin then forwards these letters on to important decision makers at critical times during our work on the issue. The more people that are behind an issue, the more likely a decision maker is going to pay attention and make the right decision. Your personal comments make a huge difference! When you receive mail from Clean Wisconsin please read it carefully. Membership renewals come once a year, and entitle you to benefits such as The Defender, special issue updates, and invitations to events in your area. Special appeal notices contain a lot of key information about big issues that we are working on. Special appeals also give you an opportunity to voice your opinion and show decision makers that you care, and they allow you to contribute to causes that you really care about. Thank you for your comments, your donations and your commitment to clean water, clean air and clean energy.
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The Defender is owned and published quarterly by Clean Wisconsin 634 W. Main St., #300, Madison, WI 53703 608-251-7020, email@example.com A one-year subscription membership is $40. Please direct correspondence to the address above. Volume 47, No. 1 Issue date: August 2017 ©2017 Clean Wisconsin. All rights reserved. ISSN # 1549-8107
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NOT IN THE TOILET NOT IN THE TRASH LEFTOVER MEDS CAN END UP IN LAKE MICHIGAN. CLEAN WISCONSIN IS WORKING TO CHANGE THAT.
By Jon Richards
nused medicine that gets thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet in Milwaukee County travels in the rivers or sewers to Lake Michigan, the source of Milwaukee’s drinking water. Sewage treatment systems are not designed to break down medicine. Unused medicine left in medicine cabinets can get into the wrong hands and are a major factor in drug overdoses, the No. 1 cause of non-natural deaths in Milwaukee County. Clean Wisconsin is helping to fund and is participating in the Take Back Your Meds Milwaukee coalition to provide the multi-disciplinary response this problem demands. The Coalition has a simple message to the public: dispose of your unused medicine safely. In addition to spreading this message, the Coalition is working to get more permanent drop boxes placed in pharmacies to make disposal easier. A customer using a drop box at Hayat Pharmacy, 1919 W. North Ave., Milwaukee. Members of the Take Photo courtesy of Jon Richards. Back Your Meds Milwaukee coalition include Clean Wisconsin, the Medical Society of Milwaukee County, Hayat Pharmacy, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and Southeast Wisconsin Common Ground. A full list of the coalition’s members can be found on the website: takebackyourmedsmilwaukee.org. The Coalition has already become a forceful, evidence-based voice in the rapidly developing strategy to reduce the threat of unused medicines, especially opioids, in Milwaukee County. The Coalition is working with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District and local governments in Milwaukee County to develop long-term public/private funding to meet its goals. In the meantime, the Coalition has emerged as the authoritative voice on unused medicine collection efforts in Milwaukee County. The materials Clean Wisconsin produced for the Coalition that explain why and where people can dispose of their unused medicines are being widely used. For example, the City of Milwaukee Health Department asked to distribute the Coalition’s materials at its health fairs being held in Milwaukee neighborhoods this summer. Fueled by sustained and strategic engagement with key policy makers, the Take Back Your Meds Milwaukee Coalition is growing stronger than ever and is the sole voice guarding the health of Lake Michigan in the response to the opioid abuse crisis in Milwaukee County. Jon Richards is an attorney and the coordinator of the Take Back Your Meds Milwaukee Coalition.
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We want to know why you care enough to support us. Did you learn your conservation ethic from your grandparents? Do you take a daily hike through the woods near your home? Are you worried about the impacts of climate change? We want to learn about the places you love in Wisconsin, why they’re worth protecting, and why you support us. To share your story, contact Jon Drewsen at (608) 251-7020 x28 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again for supporting our work!
from the President & CEO
hope everyone is basking in the great beauty and fun that comes with summer in Wisconsin. From outdoor concerts, enjoying an evening boat ride on a lake, jumping into cool clear water on a hot humid day, fishing with your children or grandchildren, paddling the Wisconsin River, biking or running along a beautiful path, eating fresh food from a farmer’s market…there is no shortage of activities or fun to be had in this amazing state! Safe drinking water, fresh air, swimmable beaches, and clean soils to grow our food are tied to our health and they’re key to a strong economy. John Muir, grandfather of the conservation movement, put it well when he wrote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” The environment is interconnected, and connected to us. So it’s obvious that we should take care of it, right?! I’ve been a leader at Clean Wisconsin for 18 years. I’m not one to cry wolf or say the sky is falling. I don’t think it is, and I truly believe there are many great things happening, especially in cities, counties and neighborhoods across WisMark Redsten consin, where philanthropists, government leadPresident & CEO ers, businesses and thousands of generous and hardworking citizens are all coming together to make their communities better. Clean Wisconsin is an important part of that positive community change through our work supporting energy efficiency and community solar projects; our work to remove toxic chemicals, like PAH’s, and to reduce polluted runoff like phosphorus from entering our waterways. We’re also part of efforts to get more conveniently-located pharmaceutical drop boxes so people can properly dispose of their medicines so they don’t end up in our water; and we’re installing and promoting the use of green infrastructure, like rain gardens, throughout southeast Wisconsin. These are just a few of the many great things we’re part of in Wisconsin. This grassroots work is very important, and this work with our partners and local residents lifts us all up. But let me just say, at no time in my professional life have we needed your help more than right now at the state level. Our state leaders, and now our President, have little appreciation of this interconnectedness to the environment, to say nothing about preserving the natural heritage of our state. As a result, we’re fighting efforts to erode environmental protections we’ve held dear for 50 years. For example, in early June, our Governor signed a bill giving away billions of gallons of groundwater, despite the fact that many parts of Wisconsin face severe water shortages. And also in June, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, against the advice of nearly all the world’s leaders and climate scientists, business and utility leaders. Adding to that list are efforts to undermine our 20-year-old "Prove-itFirst" mining law that protects our water from toxic acid mine drainage; drinking water contamination from too much cow manure and other nutrients in places like Kewaunee County; phosphorus pollution in our rivers and lakes from farm field and city street runoff, that causes toxic algae blooms and make our waters unswimmable. These challenges are big, they often need to addressed right away, but they are rarely, if ever, solved overnight. They require years, sometimes decades, of tireless work. And we need to be ready and have staying power. And that’s how you can help us. If you want a clean, sustainable, and healthy environment, please don’t take environmental advocacy work for granted, and consider increasing your funding for our ongoing work, or tell a friend about us. I know that with you, we can continue to be that leading voice, and that our state with such a strong heritage of environmental stewardship and protection—is in good hands. Thank you,
It’s been a slow summer for state legislative action.
s of this writing there is still no resolution to the impasse on the state budget. Wisconsin is supposed to have a biennial budget signed by July 1 every other year, but now Assembly and Senate republican leaders are disagreeing over how to fund Wisconsin’s transportation system, and it has caused By Amber Meyer Smith, Vice President of Programs an impasse between the houses that has stalled progress on the budget. & Government Relations Unlike the federal government, which shuts down if the budget isn’t passed on time, Wisconsin's state government continues to operate at previous levels. Before budget discussions broke down, the budget writing Joint Finance Committee resolved some issues regarding energy efficiency policies, and partially restored the publication of the Natural Resources Magazine. We hope these positive developments remain in the final product.
Bend Deposit Reef Deposit
Leading on Lead
Senate Bill 48/Assembly Bill 78 were first introduced by Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) in February. The bill’s goal is to tackle the high lead levels in many communities around Wisconsin by giving local governments more financial tools for replacing lead pipes. While the bill passed unanimously out of a Senate committee, Assembly republicans passed several amendments that made lead pipe replacement more difficult for communities. Those amendments came on the heels of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce announcing its opposition to the bill. We are disappointed that after such strong Senate support, the Assembly is attempting to derail this important bill. The bill has yet to get a full vote of either the Senate or Assembly. Despite these somewhat damaging amendments, Clean Wisconsin remains supportive of the main goal of the bill: to help local governments get lead pipes replaced. We continue to work with many partner groups to make this bill a reality and to overcome the opposition of industrial special interests.
What’s ahead: Industrial Acid Mining Bill
Wisconsin’s common sense “Prove it First” sulfide mining law was enacted 20 years ago when Exxon tried to develop the Crandon Mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River. The law requires a mining company to show that a similar mine has operated and closed for ten years without environmental pollution before it can be allowed to open a new mine. 4
Undoing Wisconsin's 20-year-old Prove it First mining law would threaten an untold number of lakes, rivers, and streams with toxic acid mine drainage and heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. A foreign mining company has its eyes on the Bend and Reef deposits in Wisconsin's beloved Northwoods.
Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) has announced he wants to make it easier to open a new sulfide or metallic mine in Wisconsin and he plans to introduce legislation to do that. Sen. Tiffany was also the author of the environmentally devastating Open Pit Mining Bill to try and bring the Gogebic Taconite mine to the Penokee Hills in Iron County. Sulfide mining (for metals such as gold, copper, and zinc) is one of the most toxic industries in the country according to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. Sulfide mining was responsible for 37 percent of all toxics released in the country in 2015, including sulfuric acid, arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and asbestos. Sulfide mining is especially toxic because it creates acid mine drainage, a toxic slurry that runs into surface and groundwater and kills everything in its path. (See "Under the Lens" on Page 9). There is no doubt Sen. Tiffany’s bill will loosen the laws that protect our health and the environment from the devastating dangers of sulfide mining. There are at least two sites where mines are likely to be sited if such a bill were to pass: a gold/copper/zinc/silver deposit in Taylor County known as the Bend site, and a gold deposit in Marathon County known as the Reef site. Both sites are owned by Aquila Resources, which also owns the “Back Forty” mine site just across the border in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Back Forty project is opposed by environmentalists, tribes, property owners, and a growing list of county officials. That project is currently working its way through the permitting process. Clean Wisconsin is already working with other conservation groups to be ready for the Industrial Acid Mining Bill when it becomes public, but we’ll need all hands on deck if we're going to stop it from becomingn law. Stay tuned for more information by subscribing to our Action alerts, watching Facebook and Twitter feeds, and by visiting our webpage: http://www.cleanwisconsin.org/ our-work/water/mining. Summer 2017
Runoff Woes Phosphorus in phosphorus our water A wet summer highlights the problem with
Phosphorus pollution is a major issue in our waterways, causing dangerous, smelly algae that harms aquatic ecosystems and prevents Wisconsinites and visitors from enjoying the places we love.
Phosphorus But just how problematic is
phosphorus pollution in Wisconsin? in our water
From aquatic insects to crayfish to fish to this young duckling, a massive June 16 algae bloom on Lake Mendota spared very little that was in its path. Photo courtesy Jake Vander Zanden. By Scott Laeser Water Program Director
e talk a lot about phosphorus pollution. It comes from our wastewater treatment plants, industrial facilities, farm fields, and lawns, leaves, and other stormwater runoff in cities. Out-ofcontrol algae bloom from too much phosphorus in our rivers, lakes, and streams turns our summer water playgrounds green and clogs them up. It makes swimming, boating, and fishing a lot less pleasant. This summer, an even more alarming aspect of phosphorus pollution and the associated algae growth reared its head in the Madison lakes to a degree not seen in decades. In early June algae went from nuisance in the water to imminent threat to public health, pets, and wildlife. It was the perfect storm: lots of rain brought phosphorus-laden runoff into the Madison lakes, mostly from up-stream farms. Then warm temperatures and calm winds created perfect conditions for an explosion of toxic blue green algae in Lake Mendota, turning the water teal blue and wreaking havoc on fish and other lake life while prompting warnings for people and pets to avoid the water. The Yahara River was covered in a white, bubbly froth and fish and other wildlife were observed along the shores dead or dying. This is not normal or natural. It is the result of two environmental challenges often discussed in abstract terms that are in fact impacting our lives now; excessive phosphorus pollution and climate change. We put too much phosphorus on our farm fields and intense, severe storms, which climate scientists have long predicted would become more frequent, wash that phosphorus into our rivers, lakes, and streams. When warmer temperatures that favor blue green algae growth follow, lakes can turn a soupy blue green and become dangerous to be in or near. We don’t have to accept this as the new status quo. Laudable efforts to reduce phosphorus pollution are underway, such as innovative, collaborative projects in Madison, Oconomowoc, and elsewhere to bring cities, farmers, and local and state government together to reduce phosphorus pollution. But a long legacy of phosphorus pollution and large amounts of manure and commercial fertilizer still spread on farm fields will make progress tough.
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the largest freshwater estuary We need more resources to in help thefarmers Great reduce Lakes,phosphorus is coveredpollution and to clean up phosphorus laden sediment already in our in algae, creating a dead zone. rivers, lakes, and streams. organic fertilizers. And ourUse leaders must take climate change seriously. Warmer R E G N temperatures and more frequent, intense precipitation events will DA E A G L only lead to more frequent, severe algae blooms going forward and A TOXIC Manage petnumber and livestock waste. Reported of M will make it harder for farmers to keep the phosphorus they need BLOO illnesses related to to grow crops where it belongs; in their fields. To clean up our waterways, weUse have to reduce carbonin pollution and take ongoing and blue-green algae rain barrels. future climateWisconsin change impacts seriously. Natural resource managewaters. ment officials, farmers, and other land managers must have tools Install rain gardens to our absorb nutrients. and resources to manage and protect natural resources in the face of a changing climate even while we work to reduce those disruptive changes. Start a watershed team in your community. Summer is not yet half over. More toxic algae blooms are in store, thisUse year organic or maybe next. We know what needs to be done to BONUS: Join ourfertilizers. EMAIL ACTION NETWORK clean up our waters and we all need to work together www.cleanwisconsin.org/action-network if we want to protect Wisconsin’s precious water resources. Sources Manage pet and livestock waste. www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-agriculture
Ways You Can Help! X
1 2 3 4
Ways You Can Help! 5
1 2 Join our email Action Network at www.cleanwisconsin.org/ACT 3 Use rain barrels. www.cleanwisconsin.org 5 4 Install rain gardens to absorb nutrients. www.cleanwisconsin.org/enviropedia/clean-water/blue-green-algae/ Lawn
www.extension.umn.edu/environment/shoreland/lake-home-and-cabin-kit/docs/algae.pdf www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/scientists-dead-zone-showing-up-in-green-bay-b9977069z1-219902171.html dnr.wi.gov/news/mediakits/mk_phosphorus.asp
Infographic by Haley Johnson
To everyone who attended Epicurean Evening Milwaukee...
It was a lovely evening at Discovery World along the shores of Lake Michigan celebrating Clean Wisconsin's ongoing work to protect and preserve our state's air, water, and natural heritage. We could not do this important work for Wisconsinâ€™s environment without your support and generosity!
A special thanks to our sponsors
Devin Hagan chats with Kimberly Gleffe and Clean Wisconsin President Mark Redsten. Mark greets State Rep. Cory Mason, a strong supporter of the environment in the state Capitol.
Anne Summers and Mark chat with Take Back Your Meds Milwaukee coalition coordinator Jon Richards. Barbara Quindel, Erick Shambarger, Roger Quindel and Dave Misky take a moment to pose for the camera.
Clean Wisconsin volunteers Miranda Mendoza and Matt Landi tend to the ever-popular wine pull table.
Lafayette Crump is all smiles after winning a live-auction package
Liz Feder (second from right) and Mark Johnson (left) stand with Pam Ritger and Mark Redsten to celebrate their contributions to Clean Wisconsin.
Praise to the kings of the kitchen Justin Aprahamian, Adam Siegal and Peter Sandroni (not pictured) for their exquisite cuisine.
Inge and Victoria Wintersberger enjoy the evening at Discovery World Milwaukee.
A big thank you to all who were able to attend our event and help us in our mission to protect Wisconsinâ€™s clean water, clean air, and natural heritage! www.cleanwisconsin.org 7
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And researchers think that these numbers only hint at the actual levels of contamination that exist in Kewaunee County. “In my professional opinion, if we sampled more than once, [the contamination rate] would creep up to 90 percent,” noted Mark Borchardt, microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who led the most recent study. In 2014, Clean Wisconsin, along with Midwest Environmental Advocates and local citizens, filed a Safe Drinking Water Act petition with the United States Environmental Protection Agency asking for help for Kewaunee County residents. While some steps to provide drinking water for residents with contaminated wells have been taken, too little action has occurred to address the root of the problem. Kewaunee County’s geology makes it vulnerable to groundwater contamination from manure spreading on the landscape. With about 100,000 cows producing 700 million gallons of manure a year, a lot of untreated animal waste is being spread on Kewaunee County fields. And some of it is ending up in peoples’ drinking water. Kewaunee County residents deserve a robust and thorough effort from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to address drinking water contamination. For much of the past year, the DNR has pointed to a new set of protections being drafted as their effort to address drinking water contamination from livestock manure. The draft of these rules released in early July is a good first step toward addressing the ongoing livestock drinking water contamination issues in Kewaunee County, but it needs to be strengthened.
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protected whenever possible. The DNR has never allowed a single frac sand mining enterprise to fill such a huge area of wetlands. The impact of Meteor Timber's proposed fill is alarming both because of its scale and because the wetlands that would be destroyed are rare, high quality wetlands. More than 13 of the 16.25 acres slated for destruction are classified as “imperiled” by the state. These wetlands also provide habitat for animals, some of which are threatened or endangered species, or species of special concern. The DNR itself acknowledged that the wetlands provide “exceptional” benefits that will be permanently and irreversibly lost if the company is allowed to move forward. The agency also acknowledges the company’s mitigatation efforts may not succeed. Given the scale and impact of the wetland fill involved, it was critical that the DNR carefully follow the law in making its determinations. However, the permit contains a host of conditions indicating that the DNR lacked the information it needed to fully vet the proposed project and understand all the 8
We’re glad to see the DNR took the recommendations from the Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup seriously, but there is still a lot of work to be done before this rule is finalized.
ensure Kewaunee County residents have access to safe water. The final rules should have even stronger requirements on the shallowest soils and they must require all farms to have winter spreading plans, an exceedingly
PHOTO: DEBORAH BERKE
The proposed rules include some of the key recommendations from the Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup, such as: •greater manure application setbacks from private wells and other groundwater contamination points such as sinkholes; •prohibitions on manure application in areas with the shallowest soils; •requirements that farms moderate the rate at which they apply manure in vulnerable areas. These provisions are a good base for a final rule, but more work is needed to
risky time of year to be applying manure. We will continue to work with the state and the agricultural community to strengthen the rule. In the coming weeks, the DNR will announce when they will be accepting comments from the public and holding public hearings in Kewaunee County. Your voice is critical to strengthening these rules so they reduce groundwater contamination. Visit cleanwisconsin.org for more information on hearing dates and locations, and to take action.
environmental consequences. That's why Clean Wisconsin is also challenging the DNR’s decision to issue this
permit on the grounds that so many of the project’s central details remain incomplete or unspecified. The agency's failure to follow the required legal process also inappropriately limits public input on this controversial project. While protecting these valuable wetlands in Monroe County is our immediate goal, we're also seeking to block an action that threatens wetlands all across Wisconsin. The DNR’s decision to allow destruction on this scale— despite finding that there will be significant impacts to wetland values—would set an unprecedented and dangerous example for the future of wetlands protection in Wisconsin. Indeed, DNR acknowledges as much, stating in the permit that its decision to issue this permit may lead to more applications to fill other rare, sensitive, and valuable wetlands. A victory on this permit challenge would protect critical wetlands in Monroe County and impact how permit applications are processed going forward, ensuring a more thorough and transparent process for wetland permit decisions. This challenge may have wide-ranging implications for wetlands law, and wetlands, throughout Wisconsin.
Photo by Dan Grudzielanek/Flickr
A train passing through the south side of Milwaukee loaded with frac sand for use in Texas.
METAL MINING'S TOXIC Legacy By Paul Mathewson Staff Scientist
Metallic mining has played a significant role in Wisconsin’s history. In fact, Wisconsin earned its “Badger State” moniker from all the digging for lead and zinc in the southwest part of the state during the 19th century. Mining technology has changed dramatically from the days when miners chipped away at rocks with pickaxes, which is depicted on the state flag. However, with advancements in mining technology came significant increases in the threats to public health and the impacts on the environment. Non-iron metallic deposits here in Wis-
Doug La Follette Anonymous
consin are typically found in lower grade sulfide ores: often less than 2% copper and 10 grams per ton gold in the ore itself. This means that there is a tremendous amount of rock waste created, particularly when factoring in the overlying rock that needs be removed to reach the ore in the first place. When the sulfides in the waste rock come into contact with water and air, sulfuric acid runoff is produced in a process called acid mine drainage. Once initiated, the process can last hundreds of years, until the sulfide in the waste rock is used up. The resulting acidification of surrounding surface and groundwater can kill aquatic animals and facilitates the release of heavy metals from rocks, contaminating the water. Rocks surrounding the metal-bearing ores can also contain asbestos or related elongated mineral particles (EMP) that are released into the air as the rock is blasted and excavated. These materials are highly toxic, causing coronary disease, mesothelioma and other cancers. Air quality monitoring in communities around taconite (iron) mines in Minnesota found that EMP levels increased when the mines were active. Metallic mining releases more toxic chemicals than any other industry, responsible for 37% for all releases in the US in 2015, as tracked by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Of the World Health Organization’s ten chemicals of major public health concern, six are associated with metallic mining pollution. Mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic are all mobilized as a result of acid mine drainage, while asbestos-related particles and other fine particulate air pollution results from the excavation and processing activities. Mercury releases are especially troublesome at
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sulfide mines because the presence of sulfates can enhance the conversion of mercury into methylmercury, the more toxic form that bioaccumulates in fish. Accurately predicting contamination from acid mine drainage is very difficult. In a case study of 25 metallic mines in the United States – all of which predicted in their environmental impact statements that water quality standards would be maintained after accounting for mitigation – 19 (76%) ended up causing exceedances of surface water or groundwater quality standards. Of these mines, only three had identified a high contaminant leaching potential at the site, illustrating how most mines ignore or underestimate contamination potential, making it difficult to ensure the proper mitigation and control measures are in place. Metallic mining in Wisconsin could be gaining some momentum with the Back Forty zinc and gold mine right across the border in Michigan in the final permitting stages, multiple metal deposits being currently explored here in Wisconsin, and the expectation of legislation being introduced later this year aimed at encouraging metallic mining in the state. It is therefore imperative that we work to ensure that our state’s mining laws require that mining proposals be thoroughly evaluated prior to approval. Approved mining projects should only allowed to proceed with comprehensive monitoring programs in place for early detection of problems and sufficient financial assurances so taxpayers are not left to pay for any remediation that, based on the industry’s track record, is likely to be required in the future.
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DEDICATED GIFTS In memory of Sam Weis...
Thank you to all of our donors! The individuals listed here made contributions of $25 or more to Clean Wisconsin in April through June 2017
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N TICKETS O SALE NOW!
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THURSDAY, OCT. 5th
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Defender is the quarterly member newsletter of Clean Wisconsin, the state's oldest and largest environmental nonprofit.