Contact: Anne Moore, 218-302-6605
Duluth, Minn. – Northshore Mining Company recently agreed to pay a $26,087 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for alleged water quality permit violations at its Peter Mitchell taconite ore mine near Babbitt, Minnesota. The company has completed one of the stipulation agreement’s requirements and must adhere to a compliance schedule to resolve the remaining violations.
The company’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit authorizes Northshore Mining to pump water (effluent) out of its open pit mine and discharge it to surface waters. The permit requires the company to sample effluent from pump-out locations to ensure it is clean enough to meet its permit limits. Northshore must also monitor and meet required effluent limits at the mine’s domestic wastewater treatment plant.
The enforcement action covers effluent limit violations that occurred between October, 2009 and March 2011. The most frequently occurring violation was for failing to meet pH requirements in the water at four mine pump-out monitoring stations. Other violations were for total suspended solids and un-ionized ammonia levels. Three violations of biochemical oxygen demand also occurred at the facility’s wastewater treatment plant.
The agreement requires the company to investigate and install technologies that will adjust pH levels from the mine pump-out stations, as well as develop and implement plans for eliminating the other effluent limit violations. It also includes a corrective plan should violations occur in the future.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The MPCA also seeks to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws. For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA, go to www.pca.state.mn.us/newscenter/enforcement.html.
Citizens may report suspected pollution problems toll-free by phone at 800-657-3864 or online at www.pca.state.mn.us/complaints.html.