Preserving the Yellow Dog Watershed
in its most natural state for the use of the public,
now, and for the benefit of future generations.

Wetland receiving unlawful sediment deposits and unnatural turbidity as a result of road construction.

news,Sulfide Mining,Water Quality

Marquette County Road Commission in Violation of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act

14 Aug , 2014  

On August 4, 2014 the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Water Resources Division issued a Violation Notice to the Marquette County Road Commission for an unlawful discharge of sediment and turbid water into a wetland ravine, tributary, and the East Branch Salmon Trout River during the creation of the haul road for Lundin Eagle Mine. The unlawful discharge was created when excavation for the new County Road AAA road corridor reached groundwater level and water began to flow out of the construction site, down slope, and into nearby waterways.

Spring water mixing with sediment flowing through a construction site on the new County Road AAA on August 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

Spring water mixing with sediment flowing through a construction site on the new County Road AAA on August 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve was informed in late July by an anonymous source that a spring that feeds the East Branch of the Salmon Trout River had been damaged during road construction on County Road AAA. Site visits by our organization continued for several weeks and confirmed the damage had occurred, mitigation had begun, but that the MCRC did not have a formalized plan to control the release. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Natural Resources were notified of the situation immediately and completed several site visits in July and August.

Spring water running through the construction site on the new County Road AAA, a haul road for Eagle Mine. A series of springs were ruptured during construction activities and led to the pollution of a wetland. Photo dated August 6, 2014 courtesy of Yellow Dog Watershed Preserv

Spring water running through the construction site on the new County Road AAA, a haul road for Eagle Mine. A series of springs were ruptured during construction activities and led to the pollution of a wetland. Photo dated August 6, 2014 courtesy of Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve sent in a formal complaint letter to MDEQ on August 1, urging the agency to issue a citation for polluting the water. We also urged the agency to require the implementation of a mitigation plan to clean up the site. We are currently informing the EPA of the incident and speaking with tribal entities and our legal team. Sedimentation at these levels can have serious impacts on fish and other aquatic organisms.

In the Violation Notice, the MDEQ states that they observed the unlawful discharge of sediment and turbid water on July 14, 2014. Improved erosion and sediment control measures were installed at their direction. When the groundwater mixed with rain and sediment after a storm event, the flow rates increased, the water was polluted, and was not properly contained in violation of Part 301,Part 303, Part 91, and Rule 2190 of Part 31 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The MCRC is being directed to remove sediment from selected portions of the wetland and intermittent tributary as well as monitor the water color at several locations for the remainder of the 2014 construction season.

It is unclear what ongoing hydrological impacts can be expected by this. It is also unclear what long-term solution can be adopted that would manage the continued increased flow of water. YDWP will continue monitoring the waterways and the engineering decisions of the Marquette County Road Commission. We would also like to see a complete hydrological assessment of the whole impacted area and have pushed for one since 2004.

Yellow Dog Executive Director, Mindy Otto, and Special Projects Manager, Emily Whittaker, examining the newly surfaced groundwater on August 6, 2014. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

Yellow Dog Executive Director, Mindy Otto, and Special Projects Manager, Emily Whittaker, examining the newly surfaced groundwater on August 6, 2014. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Eagle Eye.

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5 Responses

  1. Gail Griffith says:

    There is no way to mitigate this kind of damage. Oops doesn’t do it, and MCRC and MDEQ have been negligent. I hope there is some recourse through the EPA. Another manifestation from Kennecott/Lundin.

  2. Thanks for you comment Gail. Oops doesn’t cut it for sure. We are working with the tribal agencies to carefully develop the story to present to the EPA. We hope to see recourse as well. Now that so many local agencies and contractors are involved it becomes harder to identify the original perpetrator of the mess, which is actually the mining company.

  3. Jack Parker says:

    Thanks, good work Mindy!

    Methinks that now is the time to ask to see the environmental impact study which was to accompany a proposal to make very significant changes to Triple A, beyond the original ROW, where mining-related activities very clearly affected the environment “outside the fence”.

    Here too the statements and claims made by Kennecott and the RC were indefensible – not supported by fact, not acceptable.
    They lied.

    At the same time find out how much of the Eagle income goes to Kennecott. The truth.

    My buddies at the Sudbury police station point out that no man’s memory is good enough to make him a successful liar.

    Sleep well!

    cousin jack

  4. Jeff Knoop says:

    Shows you how much the County road commission knows about groundwater flow – absolutley zero. They don’t care anyway; their job is to get the road done ASAP regardless of environmental damages. The damage is done and the end up with a slap on the wrist. Their actions are deplorable and unexcusable.

  5. Gail Griffith says:

    I saw this devastation myself recently. Part of a paved, mult-lane highway leading to the Eagle Mine and nowhere else. Paid for by Lundin , but enriching local contractors, and with no Environmental Impact Statement required or asked for. This scar across the Yellow Dog Plains will be there much longer than the Eagle Mine.

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