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Iron Mining Suppliers' View: MPCA's wild rice sulfate proposal wrong for everyone

As vendor board members of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota who represent the 150 businesses in Northeastern Minnesota that supply goods and services to the iron mines, we are deeply concerned about the severe repercussions of the wild rice sulfate rule proposed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency ("Wild-rice hearing draws ire on Range," Oct. 25).

All told, the mining industry employs roughly 15,000 people; so much is at stake for our businesses and the economy of Northeastern Minnesota.

Recently, the MPCA published its proposed updated wild rice sulfate rule. Our concern with this new rule is that it relies on flawed science. Furthermore, the rule may not actually protect our valuable state grain, wild rice. We all want to see wild rice flourish in northern Minnesota, but this rule and its only viable treatment solution may have unintended consequences for wild rice.

According to the MPCA, the only way to comply with this proposed standard would be to invest in reverse-osmosis systems. These systems are costly to install and maintain, and they require a lot of energy. If the iron mines and municipal wastewater treatment plants across the region have to comply with this proposed standard, billions of dollars will need to be spent on investments that may not actually help protect the very resource the proposed standard is intended to protect. The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District has explained that it, too, may be impacted.

A peer-review panel found important shortcomings in the wild-rice science used by the MPCA, and the MPCA acknowledged that the proposed rule has an error rate for each water body's sulfate standard as high as 20 percent. Furthermore, the MPCA still can't guarantee any benefit to wild rice.

State agencies pride themselves on getting standards right, but this proposed rule is wrong for everyone and everything it will impact. It won't protect wild rice, jobs, the economy, or our communities. We are calling on the MPCA to incorporate the best-available science and consider the recommendations of its own peer-review panel before taking any further action on a wild rice sulfate standard.

There will be one last chance to make your voice heard on this. Today at the Duluth MPCA office, 525 S. Lake Ave., a video-conference hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Letters and comments on the proposal also are being accepted through Nov. 22. Learn more at


This submission from the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota was signed by Nels Ojard, CEO of Krech Ojard of Duluth; Matt Thibodeau, a partner with Thibodeau, Johnson and Feriancek of Duluth; Bruce Mars, president of conveyor belt systems at Mars Supply of Duluth; Jim Hoolihan, CEO of Industrial Lubricants of Grand Rapids; Art Lind, president of Lind Industrial of Hibbing; Jon Anderson, vice president of northern operations for Road Machinery and Supply of Virginia; Steve Harms, president of Pit and Quarry Supplies of Virginia; Bill Whiteside, owner of WR Whiteside Equipment Company of Hibbing; Jason Janisch, vice president of Jasper Engineering of Hibbing; and Michael Jenkins, vice president of sales for TASSCO, which is located in Alabama.