THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
From our readers
Issue Date: June 24, 2020
The world is really a mess now. Some companies as well as local, state and federal government are using the coronavirus as an excuse to do or not do things. Locally we have several huge problems that are not getting the attention they should perhaps so I am reminding you.
The shoreline of Lake Michigan due to high lake levels is taking a beating. I'm not sure owners and the local governments are moving fast enough on this problem. As the owner of property on Lake Noquebay where the wind and ice can be hard on the shoreline I can tell you that I keep my shoreline rip rap in good shape. It takes time and money. Waiting until you have a problem is often too late and adds greatly to the cost I suspect.
The PFAS problems appear to have been moved to the back burner and the heat almost turned off by the Wisconsin DNR. Tyco/JCI is wanting the DNR to investigate other possible contributors to this pollution. I would be willing to wager that there are. I cannot say that I blame Tyco/JCI as the fixes are going to cost a lot of money and take a long time. Any other contributors to fixing the problems will save them money. Sadly the end may never come due to the nature of PFAS. I am very disappointed but not surprised that Marinette County has done almost nothing. We still have not heard if the Lake Noquebay County Park wells are polluted. I paid to have my one of my wells tested. We pay for and drink bottled water. I won't drink water at the county park or the park maintenance building located across the street from a 91 acre field that had over a million gallons of Marinette bio sludge dumped on it in one year. I wonder if county employees do? Would the county board members? Would you?
I have not seen any updates on the mine. Is everything approved for the mine? The clock is still ticking yet there has not been any information for quite some time.
Our Wisconsin governor's "Chicken Little The Sky is falling" decision making is killing the economy. There are very few cases and deaths in our county. Living in a tourism area I can tell you many people are using their second homes and have been since the whole thing started. I see them shopping in the grocery stores. Many of them wear masks and a check of the vehicles in the parking lots confirms it with all the out of the area dealer stickers on them.
I suggest that you support as many local businesses as you can. Call your county and state representatives. Tell them what you want done on all the problems. Remind them they better do something or we can replace them.
Aquila Resources continues to provide misleading and inaccurate information about the status of the Back Forty project in their most recent financial report. The company's March 2020 report states that "Aquila has received all State and Federal permissions required for the construction and commencement of operations at the Back Forty Project."
However, the company has not yet submitted a revised Dam Safety Permit Application. According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), "Aquila is not authorized to begin construction of the mine and will not be able to proceed until all permits, including the Dam Safety Permit have been approved by EGLE."
The Back Forty tailings dam, designed to store toxic mine waste, may be the most controversial permit in light of the unprecedented flooding after two dams collapsed in Midland, Michigan following record rainfall in May. Governor Whitmer noted that the flood severity was on the order of a 500-year storm event.
The Edenville and Sanford dams that failed were water-retention dams made of concrete and steel. In contrast, the upstream dam design proposed for the Back Forty tailings dam is made of crushed waste rock and overburden soil. If the more stable water-retention dams were unable to withstand a 500-year storm event, how could Aquila's far less stable Back Forty tailings dam possibly withstand such a challenge?
The likelihood of intense storms is rising rapidly in the Midwest, posing a direct threat to tailings dams. According to David R. Easterling, director of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, "Most current infrastructure, such as dams and bridges, was designed based on rainfall values from the mid-to-late 20th century and was not built to withstand the more frequent extreme rains identified by the new research."
A catastrophic failure of the Back Forty tailings dam could lead to significant costs, including loss of life, contaminated drinking water, destruction of tribal sacred sites, taxpayer-funded cleanup costs, lost income and loss of environmental benefits associated with clean water, air, and soil. Aquila's reliance on short-term loans means they lack significant financial resources, resulting in a "liability gap" where the costs of environmental damage would be shifted from Aquila to the public. Previous tailings dam failures have exceeded $1 billion in damages.
Michigan's Part 632 mine regulation does not require pollution liability insurance for Aquila's tailings dam. When companies know they may not bear the full cost of environmental damage arising from their actions, they have less incentive to take actions that reduce the risk of harm. The result is a greater overall risk to the environment. This situation is unacceptable and requires an update to Michigan's mine regulation.