Assembly Bill Serious Attack on Public Health!

by Free Speech on February 10, 2012

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

With all of the focus on the disastrous ways in which the open-pit mining bill could  negatively impact our wetlands, lakes and wildlife, it’s important to take stock and recognize that the most egregious impacts could be on our families’ health. The recently passed, Assembly open-pit mining bill represents a serious attack on public health – by green-lighting this bill, the Assembly is sacrificing the health of Wisconsin families in order to reward one out-of-state mining company.

The open pit mining bill gives the mining industry special exemptions from environmental and public health protections – protections that other industries must follow. In fact, the bill explicitly states that groundwater contamination by mining companies is acceptable.1

While the forces behind this bill often hold up our neighboring states as models of good mining, studies conducted on taconite mining in Minnesota and Michigan demonstrate that aggressive excavation of taconite and processing of taconite pellets can cause toxic heavy metals – including arsenic, lead, and mercury –  to leach  into air and water.

While arsenic and lead are naturally-occurring substances, they are disturbed by the aggressive misplacement of earth in the mining process. The result is that lead and arsenic can find their way into surface and groundwater, including drinking water. Arsenic has been linked to kidney, liver, lung and bladder cancer.2 Lead is especially harmful to children because their bodies absorb more lead and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead, which can lead to learning and behavior problems and slowed growth.3

Taconite processing from the iron mining process is the largest source of mercury in the Lake Superior Basin.4 The iron dust that is the result of the mining process is baked into tiny taconite pellets to make the iron easier to transport. In the process of firing these pellets, mercury is released and emitted into the atmosphere.5 Exposure to mercury can lead to neurological problems in adults, and severe developmental disabilities in fetuses, infants, and children.6

In fact, a recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health showed that 1 in 10 Minnesota infants born in the Lake Superior basin have unsafe levels of mercury in their system at birth.7 The report also found a marked increase in mercury levels in infants during the summer months when fish consumption in the region is at its highest. An increase in mercury pollution from taconite processing could lead to more mercury in lakes, more mercury in fish, and more toxic mercury in our infants.

The open-pit mining bill compounds these threats by forcing the state of Wisconsin to issue a mining permit even if they know it will endanger public health, safety or welfare. Unbelievably, it even goes one step further by eliminating contested case hearings which give affected citizens the right to protect their health and communities by challenging the claims of the mining company and ensure that the DNR is enforcing environmental laws.

Now, the burden of proof for protecting clean drinking water rests on Wisconsin citizens, where their only option would be to sue a mining company – a mining company that has millions of dollars and infinite resources. Obviously, it won’t be a fair fight because mine backers in the Assembly and business interests, like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, have made sure there won’t be a fight at all.

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