August 27, 2014

Report blasts Bad River tribe on pollution

A new report says an Indian tribe that fears pollution from a proposed mine in northern Wisconsin has pollution problems of its own.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency says the Bad River tribe near Ashland has had dozens of water quality violations at its sewage treatment plant. The conservative Media Trackers reported on excess E. coli and phosphorus in the Bad River sewage plant, and pointed to signs of possible fecal contamination and the harming of aquatic animals. The group also cited a 2009 New York Times article that said the tribe had the most EPA water pollution violations in the state between 2004 and 2008, with 241.

Bad River Tribal chairman Mike Wiggins has been one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine, saying it would have a hard time following the tribe’s water quality standards. Wiggins blames human error and poor reporting for the sewage violations and says the tribe’s current government has been working with EPA to address the issue.

In a statement, Wiggins called the report a ploy to “undermine the Tribe’s voice and shift focus away from state legislation designed to erode mining regulations at the behest of a single company.”

The report comes as the Legislature is considering a bill that would streamline the permitting process for the proposed Gogebic mine.