July 19, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 164

Consider mine's pollution impact in Iron County

To the Editor:

It is widely observed that support for a taconite mine is much higher in Iron County than in Ashland County.

This stems primarily from the fact that Ashland County is downstream from the proposed mine, and stands to suffer the brunt of any water pollution issues.

Many Iron County residents are not yet aware that they will be downwind from one of the heaviest air polluters in Wisconsin should a taconite processing facility be built.

While it is fair to entertain the argument that many are willing to sacrifice some level of clean air for more jobs, this is a conversation that has yet to take place.

In Minnesota, taconite plants are the second biggest air polluters behind power plants. As a result of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness and Isle Royale are often shrouded in haze. Mercury and particulates are also emitted.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency failed to enforce the Clean Air Act, so the Environmental Protection Agency recently moved in and set new, stricter regulations requiring the taconite plants to retrofit their equipment. The companies are resisting.

In Michigan, taconite plants use almost half of all electricity in the Upper Peninsula. The Gogebic Taconite mine will require close to four times the amount of electricity produced at the Xcel Energy plant in Ashland.

The pollution from a G-Tac facility will concentrate in the local area during lake-effect precipitation events. This means even higher acid and mercury levels in local lakes, and higher levels of particulates in the snow and rain.

Many will support the facility regardless of any pollution. But residents are entitled to know the facts before deciding the price they are willing to pay for promised jobs. These plants are heavy polluters, and states don’t always enforce pollution control laws.

Tony Stella

Hurley