Save the Wild U.P. has submitted extensive written comments to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), concerning Aquila Resources’ application for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit. In their comments, SWUP outlines numerous objections to the proposed NPDES permit, noting that the discharges pose significant threats to Menominee River. The Back Forty mine proposal would construct an open-pit sulfide mine, mill and tailings basins on the banks of the Menominee River, and treated industrial discharges would be piped to the Menominee:
- The NPDES permit proposes to use the Flambeau Mine as an example of non-polluting mine, and a model for post-closure remediation. This is a dangerous comparison — the Flambeau Mine received multiple Clean Water Act violations, had no on-site milling operations, left behind no permanent tailings on the surface, and used no cyanide on the site.
- The permit fails to provide a longterm treatment plan for acid leachate that will be produced closure produced during Postclosure years; it appears that leachate production will require Perpetual Care.
- Permit fails to analyze health risks and impacts on communities who rely on fishing for subsistence, including risks from toxic heavy metals, arsenic, methylmercury, use of cyanidation, and acid mine drainage.
- Permit fails to adequately consider alternatives to minimize environmental harm or reduce polluted seepage from permanent waste facilities.
- The mine proposal conflicts with federal policy to protect wetlands, and circumvents cumulative review. As of November 2016, there is still NO Wetlands Permit to review in conjunction with this NPDES permit — even though a large portion of the “authorized discharges” will be contact water produced as a result of dewatering (groundwater and wetlands drawdown) at the Back Forty site.
- The NPDES permit fails to fully evaluate pollution risks to drinking water, fisheries, and threatened species (particularly freshwater mussels).
- The NPDES permit would harm endangered, threatened and special concern species, including sturgeon, mussels, river fingernail clams and snails. Species-specific limits were not included in the permit. Multiple pollutants have no limit — “Report Only.”
- Aquila Back Forty water quality impairments would have adverse impacts on freshwater fisheries, aquatic life, wildlife, human health and welfare, environmental justice and special aquatic sites.
- The lack of an integrated permit review process, as was promised by the DEQ in January 2016, has frustrated and compromised the work of those offering technical comments on Aquila’s permit.
- The pollution authorized by this permit IS NOT in the public interest, it degrades the Menominee River, will impair tribal resources, and will result in an uncalculated cumulative loss of ecological services.
To read SWUP’s full comments, click here.