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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

MPCA sued over recent decision to issue new water discharge permit

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 1/16/19

MT. IRON— U.S. Steel has filed two lawsuits against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency over the state regulator’s recent decision to issue a new water discharge permit for the company’s …

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MPCA sued over recent decision to issue new water discharge permit

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MT. IRON— U.S. Steel has filed two lawsuits against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency over the state regulator’s recent decision to issue a new water discharge permit for the company’s Minntac tailings basin located north of Virginia.

The new Minntac permit, issued Dec. 1, has also been challenged by the environmental group Water Legacy as well as the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, both of which claim the new permit fails to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

U.S. Steel, by contrast, argues that the MPCA acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner or beyond its authority over several provisions in the permit, including a provision that the company be required to reduce sulfate contamination of groundwater in areas adjacent to the 8,700-acre tailings basin.

The MPCA is aware of substantial groundwater contamination in and around the basin and the agency is requiring the company to reduce sulfate levels to meet the federal drinking water standard of 250 milligrams per liter.

U.S. Steel is also challenging the MPCA’s requirement that the company meet a new schedule of compliance to lower pollution levels within the Minntac tailings basin, as well as provisions that require the company to engage in “certain monitoring and testing provisions.” The basin discharges approximately 4.3 million gallons of contaminated water each day into surrounding watersheds.

Finally, U.S. Steel is challenging the MPCA’s decision not to hold a contested case hearing prior to issuing the final permit last month. Both the company and environmental groups urged the MPCA to hold a contested case hearing to allow experts to weigh in on certain factual disputes.

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