Friday, April 08, 2016

EPA posts Web site with information on L'Anse Warden Plant Clean Air Act investigation

By Michele Bourdieu

Railroad ties, one of the fuel sources used in the L'Anse Warden Electric Co. power plant, are stacked near the plant in L'Anse. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality dust wipes taken east of the plant have been analyzed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and found to contain pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative used in railroad ties, as well as multiple metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. According to the EPA's new Web site on the L'Anse Warden Plant, at this time EPA doesn’t have enough information to determine whether the levels found in the dust wipes were excessive or could cause health problems. Additional investigation is needed to determine risks to the community.* (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Horst Schmidt)

L'ANSE -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 recently posted a Web site with information on the L'Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC) to provide publicly available information on EPA's Clean Air Act investigation of the LWEC.*

EPA is working closely with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to investigate L'Anse area residents’ concerns about odors and fugitive dust coming from the LWEC plant, address potential health risks and determine compliance with environmental regulations.

In an April 1, 2016, letter to Linda Rulison, president of FOLK (Friends of the Land of Keweenaw), Molly Smith, U.S. EPA Region 5 environmental scientist (Air Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, MI/WI Section), states, "At this time we would like to draw your attention to some new information that became available this week. MDEQ, at the request of EPA, collected dust wipe samples at four locations in the L’Anse, Michigan, community. Results of that sampling have been finalized and are available to view on the web."

At present the Web site includes links to the following: EPA requests to LWEC for information related to their emissions, MDEQ violation notices to LWEC, test results and a history of L'Anse Warden permits.

* Click here for the EPA's L'Anse Warden Power Plant Web site.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Company requests MDNR metallic minerals leases in Houghton, Ontonagon, Iron counties; 30-day public comment period

By Michele Bourdieu

This Michigan Department of Natural Resources map shows the parcels (in pink, marked with an M, and one in green in Section 25) in Duncan Township, Houghton County, requested for metallic mineral leases by Trans Superior Resources, Inc., a subsidiary of Bitterroot Resources LTD. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

[Editor's Update: Karen Maidlow, Property Specialist, DNR, Office of Minerals Management, notified Keweenaw Now on Apr. 25, 2016, that the public comment period on these lease requests has been extended to May 31, 2016.]

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) reports that Trans Superior Resources, Inc., (a subsidiary of Bitterroot Resources LTD of West Vancouver, BC, Canada) has requested direct metallic minerals leases from the State of Michigan covering MDNR metallic mineral rights located within Houghton, Ontonagon and Iron counties -- totaling approximately more than 3,000 acres.

In a March 14, 2016, news release, parent company Bitterroot Resources states, "The primary exploration targets being pursued on Bitterroot's Voyageur Lands are conduit-hosted, high-grade magmatic nickel-copper-PGM deposits similar to Lundin Mining's Eagle and Eagle East deposits, which are located 65 km NE of the Voyageur Lands."*

The following requests are being announced in published Public Notices:

In Houghton County, Trans Superior has requested a total of 1,286 acres, more or less, further described as: T47N, R37W, Sections 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, and 35 (in Duncan Township).

In Ontonagon County, Trans Superior has requested a total of 1,605 acres, more or less, further described as: T46N, R38W, Sections 3, 15, 16, and 21; T47N, R38W, Sections 25, 27, 34, and 35 (Interior Township).

This map shows the parcels in Interior Township, Ontonagon County, marked with M, that have been requested for metallic mineral leases by Trans Superior Resources, Inc. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

In Iron County Trans Superior's request is for a total of 160 acres, more or less, further described as: T45N, R36W, Sections 11, 12, and 13 (Iron River Township).

This map shows the parcels (marked with an M) in Sections 11, 12 and 13 of Iron River Township, Iron County, requested for metallic mineral leasing by Trans Superior Resources, Inc. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources)

A parcel list showing the legal description of the lands and recommended parcel classifications is available at www.michigan.gov/minerals, "Metallic Minerals Lease Information"; or by contacting Karen Maidlow, Property Specialist, DNR, Office of Minerals Management, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909; or maidlowk@michigan.gov.

According to the Public Notices, written comments from interested parties, relative to the request to lease the specified mineral rights, may be submitted to the MDNR at the contact information listed above no later than 30 days from the actual date of the Public Notice publication.

"We have to be assured that the public has 30 days from the date of the publication to submit their comments, which is why the notice is written that way," Karen Maidlow told Keweenaw Now in an email today. "The applicant told me that the public notices were expected to be published no later than April 6th. If that is the case, the public would need to submit their comments no later than May 6, 2016."

MDNR county nomination maps are available online as follows:

Houghton County:
http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/spatialdatalibrary/pdf_maps/Mineral_Lease_Information/Houghton_nominations.pdf

Ontonagon County:
http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/spatialdatalibrary/pdf_maps/Mineral_Lease_Information/Ontonagon_nominations.pdf 

Iron County:
http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/spatialdatalibrary/pdf_maps/Mineral_Lease_Information/Iron_nominations.pdf 

According to Maidlow, "If you right click on the map and zoom in to the township, range, section, you’ll see pink blocks with a red letter M (signifying the parcel is requested for metallic minerals lease). The pink shading means that the State of Michigan only owns the minerals to that parcel. For the majority of the parcels requested to lease, the land is owned by the US Forest Service and the State of Michigan owns the minerals. There is 1 small parcel (6 acres) in Houghton County, T47N, R37W, Section 25, NWNW where the State owns both the surface and minerals. This parcel shows up as olive green on the map, also with a red letter M."

Trans Superior Resources, Inc., is located at 333 Bridge Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI.

*Learn about the Michigan mineral exploration plans of parent company Bitterroot Resources LTD on their Web site.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Guest Article: Citizens still concerned about community health hazards from L'Anse Warden Electric Company plant

The L'Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC) "biomass" plant in L'Anse, Michigan, has been the subject of citizen complaints about pollution, especially non-compliance with air quality standards. At right is the Falls River, which flows into Lake Superior. (Photo © and courtesy Horst Schmidt)

By Catherine Andrews, L'Anse Township resident

In the March 29, Daily Mining Gazette (DMG) cover story, Steve Walsh, General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of L'Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC) opines that Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) and Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) are 100 percent against jobs in Baraga County. How he arrives at this conclusion is puzzling in light of a recent conversation I had with him.
(Inset photo: Guest author Catherine Andrews, speaking about the L'Anse Warden Electric Company plant during a meeting of Friends of the Land of Keweenaw last October. Keweenaw Now file photo.)*

On February 24, Walsh repeatedly accused me, and others, of wanting money from him.  I explained  that we are concerned about community health, the health of L'Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC) employees and the environment. My perception is that he fails to grasp the concept that anyone would value health over money.

A major criteria pollutant emitted from the LWEC stack is Hydrogen Chloride (HCl). The permit limit is 2.17 pounds per hour. A September 24 stack test revealed 5.19 pounds per hour. HCl forms hydrochloric acid, also known as muriatic acid, upon contact with atmospheric humidity. HCl is just one of many chemicals emitted from LWEC.

Exposure to HCl may cause eye, nose and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation and pulmonary edema. Exposure to skin may cause severe burns, ulcerations and scarring.

This photo shows the smokestack of the LWEC plant very near the BHK Child Development Center. (Photo © and courtesy Catherine Andrews) 

When I expressed concern regarding LWEC's close proximity to the BHK Child Development Center, Walsh said, "It should not have been built so close to a power plant."

This photo shows the proximity of the BHK Child Development Center to the conveyor that delivers chipped railroad ties and wood chips used for fuel in the LWEC plant. The receiving hopper (to the right of the conveyor) and the conveyor are sources of fugitive dust. The photo was taken from the river side of the plant. (Photo © and courtesy Catherine Andrews)

BHK was built in 1998, five years after the Warden Plant stopped burning coal in 1993, and 10 years before Traxys purchased the shuttered plant in order to convert it to a Biomass facility.

Even though MDEQ (Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are investigating noncompliance issues within LWEC's expired permit, Walsh's statement to the L'Anse Village Council that LWEC is in no imminent danger of being shut down is probably true. As seen in Flint, extraordinary bureaucratic bungling persists until agencies are forced by public pressure to do their job.

Green Hill Manor, at left, is a senior housing facility, some of whose residents have complained about dust from the LWEC plant. (Photo © and courtesy Horst Schmidt)

Walsh's allegations that citizen activists want to shut down LWEC are completely fabricated. I specifically told him that this whole issue would be resolved if LWEC converted to natural gas, which is already utilized during shut down and start up operations. I have been very clear that using natural gas is preferable to burning chemically treated railroad ties, chipped tires and other chemically treated products. I sincerely hope that most of the 17 people (not 35 as was quoted in the DMG article) who are employed at the plant would continue to be employed if the plant converts to natural gas.

This is a recent photo of railroad ties to be used at the LWEC plant. At right, in the background, is Lake Superior's Keweenaw Bay. (Photo © and courtesy Horst Schmidt)

Traxys, owner of the LWEC plant, is a subsidiary of a private equity investment company. They purchase devalued property and acquire Federal subsidies (LWEC received over 11 million) and other incentives to start up new businesses. Once the new business becomes operational, the company is sold for a sweet profit. LWEC has been for sale for three years.

Traxys never intended to become a long term, integral player in the Baraga County economy. L'Anse is only a blip on their balance sheet and will be stuck with a toxic legacy that will remain long after Traxys has moved on.**

Editor's Notes:

* See our Dec. 4, 2015, article, "FOLK, local residents, EPA investigate L'Anse Warden biomass plant permit violations; DEQ to hold public hearings." 
 
** See also our Oct. 29, 2015, article, "Guest article: Questions on air pollution from L'Anse Warden biomass plant and postponed public hearing," by Diane Miller. Note that the public hearing on the LWEC plant, mentioned as scheduled by MDEQ, has not yet been held.