PCA plans to deny sulfate variance for Minntac taconite processing center

The preliminary denial is now open for public remark, with a public listening to set for Jan. 23 in Mountain Iron.

Minntac requested for a 20-yr variance for sulfates, bicarbonates, dissolved solids and different pollution earlier than any regulatory enforcement so it could possibly develop reasonably priced methods to regulate the pollution.

However environmental teams and, to some extent, state regulators say the corporate wants to maneuver quicker to right air pollution issues which were ongoing for 30 years or extra.

As an alternative of providing Minntac a blanket variance, the PCA in November 2016 launched a draft allow for Minntac that included a “compliance schedule” to part in enforcement of laws.

The draft allow’s compliance schedule referred to as for Minntac to scale back sulfate inside its tailings basin to 800 milligrams per liter inside 5 years and to 357 mg/L inside 10 years. Previous testing confirmed Minntac emitting sulfate ranges as excessive as 1,320 mg/L, with a mean of 954 mg/L.

“We consider that a compliance schedule is a greater method to transfer this course of ahead and that a allow variance is not warranted,” stated Erik Smith of the PCA’s industrial division.

However 14 months later, the draft allow stays on maintain as procedural and authorized wrangling unwind. The variance denial is the newest improvement in a collection of ongoing disputes over the corporate’s air pollution permits which have gone on for years and present no indicators of decision.

That features a lawsuit filed by U.S. Metal towards the PCA final February asking a decide to cease the company from issuing a brand new allow till new, statewide sulfate guidelines are developed. That lawsuit was quietly resolved and dropped simply final week, Smith confirmed.

Environmental teams additionally filed go well with in 2016, after which dropped the go well with, in search of a quicker decision to the Minntac drawback as pressure between jobs and environmental safety mounts.

Smith stated there isn’t a timeline for the difficulty to be solved. Till then Minntac can proceed to function, and proceed to violate air pollution requirements, indefinitely.

“There are simply too many variables in the best way to launch any sort of timeline,” he stated.

Minntac is the most important taconite iron ore mining and processing operation within the U.S. with manufacturing as much as sixteen million tons per yr and 1,500 staff. The power got here on-line in 1967 and was expanded in 1974. The plant’s most up-to-date water allow expired in 1992 and the operations have been violating sulfate and different requirements since no less than 2000, PCA paperwork observe. The PCA stated sulfate was a…

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