‘Strong standards’ that aren’t enforced
“Minnesota has strong standards” is a lie of omission; it fosters the misconception that our laws are actually enforced. A mining company can have a permit, violate standards, and still be in compliance with its permit. “As long as a company takes a water sample once a month, has it tested, and sends the results to the Minnesota PCA, it’s in compliance with its permit, even if its discharges exceed pollution standards by orders of magnitude” (Timberjay). And the Minnesota Legislature can always step in, but not to protect — to make sure there is no enforcement, as in the case of the sulfate standard.
Minnesota’s taconite mines do not meet air and water quality standards, are operating on expired permits, and claim reverse osmosis is cost prohibitive and ineffectual, “not feasible.” Now, proposed sulfide mining in our Lake Country is being shoved down the throats of all Minnesotans. Pollution from PolyMet’s NorthMet mine pits, dug on Superior National Forest lands intended for watershed protection, would flow into headwaters of both the St. Louis River watershed and the Rainy River watershed; flow to Lake Superior and to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park.
For years PolyMet, and DNR Land and Minerals, denied such a scenario was possible, while cohort Barr Engineering (Barr) used elevated water level numbers to skew its water flow modeling. Agencies now say they will employ “adaptive mitigation measures” if (when) polluted waters head north as well as south. Try waving a magic wand, the result would be the same.
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