December 2010 Newsletter
December 10, 2010
Dear WRPC Member,
In June 2009 WRPC notified Kennecott and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of its intent to sue over water pollution caused by the Flambeau Mine, near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, unless the pollution and related issues were fully addressed (see www.wrpc.net for full details and news coverage). One of WRPC’s gravest concerns is that the industry’s false claim of environmental success at the Flambeau Mine site is sending the wrong message to citizens and Tribes throughout the Great Lakes Region who are faced with new mining proposals (see Coleman and Chiriboga’s overview enclosed). Indeed, the Flambeau mine has become a fraudulent “calling card” for the mining industry.
In September 2009 WRPC representatives met with an Assistant Attorney General and key DNR staff to discuss our claims. After extensive written exchanges with the AG’s office and the DNR, we remained dissatisfied with the unwillingness of the DNR to take action to stop the pollution. Thanks to the persistence of WRPC researcher Laura Gauger (formerly Furtman) we were able, in October 2010, to assemble a first class legal team to pursue the case from a different angle. WRPC retained the services of Attorney James Saul of Madison, Wisconsin to pursue our case under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Water Act. In light of the potential importance of this suit, two other attorneys with special expertise on this issue have offered to assist Attorney Saul with our case: Marc Fink, staff attorney of the Center for Biological Diversity and Daniel Mensher of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center. WRPC is extremely fortunate to have such an array of legal expertise interested in pursuing our case at a fraction of the normal fees for this type of case.
On November 15, 2010 WRPC notified Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) and Kennecott Minerals Company of our intent to sue for ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) including the discharge of pollutants without compliance with the requirements of the Act. The notice states that since at least August 13, 1998, FMC has violated, and continues to violate the CWA by discharging pollutants from a biofilter (man-made stormwater containment and treatment structure) at the mine site to Stream C (a small tributary of the Flambeau River) without a valid National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The pollutants discharged include copper, zinc, iron and other pollutants known to FMC and reported routinely to the DNR by FMC’s consultants or authorized representatives. FMC’s own water quality monitoring results indicate that several of the pollutants, most notably copper, have been and continue to be discharged to Stream C and ultimately the Flambeau River at levels that far exceed applicable water quality standards. FMC and Kennecott have 60 days to respond to our notice of intent.
We at WRPC are excited about this next step in what has been a long haul for us in trying to hold Kennecott accountable for ongoing water pollution problems at the Flambeau Mine site and debunk the myth of Kennecott’s self-proclaimed “environmentally responsible” Flambeau Mine. We undertook this project not only to help us here in Wisconsin but those of you in Minnesota, Michigan and beyond who are being courted by the mining industry and told: “Trust us. Just look at what a good job we did at the Flambeau Mine site in Wisconsin.
So far WRPC has been able to keep up with the bills associated with our Flambeau Mine legal action, in large part due to pro bono contributions from its attorneys and scientific consultants, grant monies from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), the Western Mining Action Network (WMAN) and Freshwater Future foundation, and individual contributions from WRPC members and friends in the Great Lakes Region.
But the bills keep coming in, and that is why we are writing to you. Please consider helping us out by making a contribution to the WRPC legal defense fund in the envelope provided (contributions can also be sent to WRPC c/o Al Gedicks, 210 Avon Street #4, La Crosse, WI 54603). Your donation will bolster our legal efforts and ensure that our attorneys and expert scientists have the resources they need to stand up to Kennecott, which ultimately will help all of us in the Great Lakes Region to protect our water resources from ill-advised mining proposals.
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary