October 31, 2013 by Barbara With
Leslie Kolesar, chair of the Iron County Mining Impact Committee, recently claimed that tailings from the defunct Montreal iron mine near Hurley were deemed safe to use as fill in a Superfund Site in Ironwood, MI. Kolesar was corrected by Kathy Halbur, EPA specialist who confirmed that no such action was taken.
In an email response to Iron County resident Maureen Matesuwic, Halbur, the on-scene coordinator for the US Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, Emergency Response Branch of the Wisconsin DNR, explained the nature of the clean up and where the materials came from:
Thank you for your interest in the work completed by the U.S. EPA at the Ironwood Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) Site in Ironwood, Michigan.
The excavation of MGP process wastes, coal tar, free product, and visibly contaminated soils extended vertically to groundwater or bedrock to remove visible contamination. Backfilling was completed using non-contaminated shallow soils and concrete from the Site. In addition, non-contaminated excess soil from the City of Ironwood’s water and sewer project was accepted as backfill at the Site. The soil was screened and evaluated before use as backfill. Soil suspected of containing contaminants based on screening results was rejected and disposed of at an EPA approved landfill.
Additional backfill and topsoil was needed to establish final grade at the Site. These materials were sampled and analyzed by a laboratory for contamination prior to purchase and use at the Site. These soils were purchased from local gravel pits by way of local suppliers.
Mine tailings were not used as backfill at the Site. Mine tailings were initially used at the Site to construct the temporary haul road to access the staged waste pile. The mine tailings were excavated with the waste and transported off-site for disposal.
Residual contamination remains at the Site primarily in the groundwater. As such, “institutional controls” were implemented at the Site to reduce exposure to residual contamination by limiting future uses of the property. You may have noticed the marker at the entrance to the Site that explains these controls.
Additional resources related to the work completed at the Site, including photographs, reports, and similar information are available at the following web address:www.epaosc.org/ironwoodMGP.
I hope this addresses your questions and concerns. If you would like any additional information, please do not hesitate to call me.
Kolesar has a history of misleading the public on issues concerning mining. In a video produced by the Wisconsin Mining Association, she is seen drinking water out of the old Plymouth Mine in Wakefield, MI. As Kolesar takes a drink of the water, she claims because it is clear that it is safe. However, many contaminants cause no noticeable change in the smell, taste or color of water. Moreover, drinking a single glass of water will not duplicate the effects that long-term exposure to that water would have on human health, and is completely irrelevant to the effects water would have on the environment, including organisms like hatchling fish and wild rice that are much more sensitive to sulfide pollution than humans.
Despite the discovery of abundant asbestos at the proposed mine site, Kolesar’s most recent comments at the October Iron County Mining Impact Committee were to discount the dangers. Suggesting that geologists were like lawyers, in that one gets a different opinion from each one, Kolesar looked to GTac lobbyist Tim Meyers for scientific answers. Meyers, also known to mislead the public, downplayed the presence of asbestos, despite Northland College geologist Dr. Tom Fitz testing even more rocks around the mine site, and presenting the information at an Ashland County Mining Impact Committee meeting on October 16, 2013.
With this track record, along with her close association to Sen. Tom Tiffany (also proven to mislead the public after admitting the new mining law gives GTAC the legal right to pollute), her spokesmodel status with Wisconsin Mining Association and her failing to stand up to protect the citizens of Iron County and instead stump for GTAC, make her position on the committee highly questionable. Some Iron County residents have called for her to be removed from the position because of conflict of interest.