Surface Water

FMC has been monitoring surface water in the Flambeau River twice a year since 1991 (sometimes just once a year). Two different monitoring sites (SW-1 and SW-2) have been utilized on a consistent basis:

  • SW-1 (Surface Water-1): at the upstream boundary of the Flambeau Mine site (in alignment with Blackberry Lane); and
  • SW-2 (Surface Water-2): prior to 2007, FMC diagrams show the location of SW-2 somewhere between the backfilled mine pit and the downstream (Copper Park Lane) boundary of the Flambeau Mine site; as of 2007, FMC diagrams show the location of SW-2  at the downstream boundary of the Flambeau Mine site (in alignment with Copper Park Lane)

Surface Water Monitoring Sites_2006 Annual Report

FMC’s surface water monitoring program is somewhat of a farce. While SW-2, the designated “downstream” monitoring site in the Flambeau River, is indeed downstream of the backfilled mine pit, it is about 1500 feet upstream of the mouth of a small tributary of the river (Stream C) that flows across the southeast corner of the mine site and has been discharging contaminated runoff from the mine site into the Flambeau River since at least 1998. This flaw in the monitoring program was pointed out by mine opponents/petitioners at the 2007 contested case hearing over FMC’s application for a Certificate of Completion for mine reclamation. As part of a negotiated agreement between FMC and the petitioners, a work plan was developed whereby another Flambeau River surface water sampling site, SW-3, was added to the monitoring program for a five-year period (2007-2012):

  • SW-3 (Surface Water-3); in the Flambeau River, immediately downstream of the Stream C discharge point, as shown in a 2007 FMC diagram.

FlambeauRiverMonitoringSites_2007 COC Stip

Flambeau River Surface Water Monitoring Data:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) did its own analysis of surface water quality at the Flambeau Mine site in April 2012. Click HERE to see the report, in its entirety.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also posts to its website a portion of the water quality monitoring data that has been submitted to the department by FMC. This includes both groundwater data and limited surface water data for the Flambeau River. Unfortunately, however, not ALL of the FMC monitoring data has been posted to the department’s website.

The Department’s on-line database is known as GEMS (Groundwater and Environmental Monitoring System; ; Website Static Image).

To access the database, click on the above link, accept the user agreement and click on “Proceed to GOTW.” The following specifications will help you find the correct file:

  • County = Rusk
  • Facility Name = Flambeau Mining Co – Kennecott Mining Site
  • License Number = 3180

When you are in the Flambeau Mine section of the data base (Website Static Image), do the following:

  • Click on the “Point ID” for the well or surface water site you want to see
  • Scroll down, click on “Choose Parameter Code(s)/Subtype(s),” select individual parameters of interest or click on “Check All”
  • Under “Choose Sample Date Range,” select dates that you want (oldest wells at Flambeau site have data going back to October 1987) or click on “Select All Dates”
  • Click on “Download Comprehensive Results Directly to Excel File”
  • When the Excel file has downloaded, you can “sort” any column to make the spreadsheet more usable.

What the future holds for the Flambeau River is unknown. According to the mining company’s own analysis of the situation, polluted groundwater from the backfilled pit will continue to enter the river through fractured bedrock for over 4,000 years.  What’s more, Stream C continues to carry contaminated runoff from the site to the river.  The small tributary was added to the EPA’s official list of “impaired waters,” effective April 2012, due to copper and zinc toxicity linked to the Flambeau Mine operation, and the pollution of the tributary was also the subject of a Clean Water Act case against Flambeau Mining Company litigated between 2010 and 2014. Unfortunately, however, neither the EPA listing of the stream nor the lawsuit compelled FMC to implement (or even propose) a plan to restore the tributary (i.e., it remains polluted).

In addition to surface water quality data for the Flambeau River, information is available for Stream C, three on-site ponds and a variety of miscellaneous locations on or near the mine site. To access this data, please visit the following pages of my website: