2009: Threatened Lawsuit

Despite industry claims that the Flambeau Mine has succeeded in protecting the environment from adverse impact, the facts prove otherwise.

In June 2009, the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC), Al Gedicks and Laura (Furtman) Gauger filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) to sue Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in State of Wisconsin Circuit Court over surface water and groundwater pollution at the Flambeau Mine site.  Issues raised in the NOI included, among other things:

  • High levels of copper in Stream C, a tributary of the Flambeau River into which FMC had routinely been discharging polluted runoff from the mine site since at least 1998. Copper levels in Stream C were consistently higher than the toxicity standards set by the State of Wisconsin to protect fish and other aquatic species;
  • Consistent and statistically significant exceedances of groundwater standards in a well located between the backfilled pit and the Flambeau River. In particular, manganese levels in this well (MW-1000PR; 125 feet from the Flambeau River) had registered as high as 5600 micrograms per liter (mcg/l), over ten times the Flambeau Mine Permit standard of 550 mcg/l.
  • Consistent and statistically significant exceedances of predicted mangangese levels in a well within the backfilled pit. This well (MW-1013B; 600 feet from the Flambeau River) had registered manganese levels in excess of 40,000 mcg/l, as compared to a predicted level of 550 mcg/l. In other words, the manganese level predicted by FMC had been exceeded by more than 70 times. As reported in the medical literature, drinking water with that much manganese in it has been associated with causing the kind of nerve damage seen in Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, however, per the terms of Wisconsin’s mining laws, this particular well at the Flambeau Mine site is exempt from having to meet state groundwater standards, as are all the wells located within the backfilled pit and  for up to 1200 feet from the buried waste rock (see NR 182.075(1)(b), Wisconsin Administrative Code). The so-called “1200-foot Compliance Boundary” at the Flambeau Mine site encompasses an area of nearly a square mile where FMC can legally pollute the groundwater to an unlimited degree.

The plaintiffs eventually decided not to push forward with the case in State of Wisconsin Circuit Court because, according to Gauger, “it became clear that Wisconsin’s mining laws contained too many loopholes and that the Wisconsin Department of Justice (WDOJ) was siding with the mining interests.”

1. Parties to the threatened lawsuit:

2. Press Releases:

3. Mine Schematic and Pollution Graphs:

4. Background Information on Flambeau Mine:

5. Official Correspondence:

Plaintiffs: Notice of Intent (NOI) to File Citizen Suit in State of Wisconsin Circuit Cout, June 16, 2009:

  • Summary
  • Entire Document
  • To access 6 separate expert reports filed in support of the NOI, go to Section 6 below

FMC:  Response to NOI, July 15, 2009

WDOJ/WDNR: Proposal for Face-to-Face Meeting between Plaintiffs, WDNR and WDOJ “with the hope and intent to avoid litigation,” July 30, 2009

Plaintiffs:  PowerPoint presentation made by Laura Gauger at a September 16, 2009 face-to-face meeting between representatives of:

  • Wisconsin Department of Justice (Assistant Attorney General Thomas Dawson);
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Attorney Dan Graff, Hydrogeologists Phil Fauble and Terry Koehn, and Upper Chippewa Watershed Team Leader Tom Aartila); and
  • Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (Attorney Glenn Stoddard, Dr. David Chambers and Laura Gauger)

WDOJ/WDNR: Letter and exhibits sent by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Wisconsin DNR to Plaintiffs on November 10, 2009 in response to Plaintiffs’ power point presentation and the September 15, 2009 meeting:

Plaintiffs: Letter and exhibits sent by Plaintiffs to the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Wisconsin DNR on January 26, 2010 in response to the letter sent to Plaintiffs on November 10, 2009:

WDOJ/WDNR:  Letter and exhibits sent by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Wisconsin DNR to Plaintiffs on April 23, 2010 in response to Plaintiffs’ January 26, 2010 submission:

6. Expert Reports Filed by Plaintiffs in Support of NOI, June 16, 2009:

Exhibit 1: Report on Groundwater and Surface Water Contamination at the Flambeau Mine, David M. Chambers, Ph.D. and Kendra Zamzow, Ph.D., Center for Science in Public Participation, June 6, 2009

Exhibit 2: Flambeau River Monitoring at the Flambeau Mine, Rusk County, Wisconsin: 1. FLAMBEAU RIVER SEDIMENTS – Analysis, Comments and Recommendations, Dr. Ken Parejko, April 10, 2009

Exhibit 3: Flambeau River Monitoring at the Flambeau Mine, Rusk County, Wisconsin: 2. MACROINVERTEBRATES – Analysis, Comments and Recommendations, Dr. Ken Parejko, April 10, 2009

Exhibit 4: Flambeau River Monitoring at the Flambeau Mine, Rusk County, Wisconsin: 3. CRAYFISH – Analysis, Comments and Recommendations, Dr. Ken Parejko, April 10, 2009

Exhibit 5: Flambeau River Monitoring at the Flambeau Mine, Rusk County, Wisconsin: 4. WALLEYE TISSUE MONITORING – Analysis, Comments and Recommendations, Dr. Ken Parejko, April 10, 2009

Exhibit 6: Recommendations for Changes to Groundwater, Surface Water and Biomonitoring Specified in the Stipulation Monitoring Plan at the Flambeau Mine, David M. Chambers, Ph.D., Kendra Zamzow, Ph.D. and Ken Parejko, Ph.D., June 9, 2009

Public Statements and News Stories:

 

Contact Information for Plaintiffs and their Scientific/Legal Team (2009):