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Says clean water is not negotiable it is a necessity

Vox Pop

In one important respect, those who reside in Taylor County are very lucky. After a relatively short drive from anywhere in the county, they can enjoy the numerous amenities of one of our national treasures. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest provides a ready escape into the soothing tranquility of a lush mixed forest abundant with wildlife, also offering an opportunity to picnic, fish and swim at the Mondeaux Recreation Area, to kayak down the Yellow River as it flows to the popular recreation and fishing site known as Miller Dam, to hike the impressive Ice Age Trail, and even be refreshed by a spring that provides drinking water to some area residents. But these amenities, cherished by generations, could soon be history, as mining interests are once again focused on the rich mineral deposits situated in this national treasure.

Green Light Metals, a Canadian-owned mining company, owns mineral rights to 8,000 acres within the portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet that includes the Bend Deposit, a rich deposit of gold and copper ore. The Bend Deposit is located in Taylor County, west of the Mondeaux and north of Perkinstown. On March 8th, Green Light Metals indicated that they are planning to submit a permit application to the DNR to allow them to drill exploration holes at the Bend as well as at the Reef Deposit located a few miles from downtown Wausau.

The process of drilling deep mineral exploration boreholes may release long-lasting compounds, such as PFAS, that may be present in the fluids used during drilling. PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” because they are nearly impossible to eliminate once they have entered the environment, and they move through soil and water without degrading. PFAS also remain in the human bloodstream, posing significant health risks such as cancer, birth defects, and liver, thyroid, and pancreas damage, to name a few.

Because PFAS may be present in the fluids used in the drilling process, already at that early point in the mining project, if present, they could begin the contamination cycle. This has recently been confirmed by Physicians for Social Responsibility and by the Norwegian Environmental Agency. Needless to say, this could present a potential hazard of enormous proportions to the groundwater and the drinking water for Taylor County residents.

Members of Congress in many states, including Minnesota, have taken steps to protect their water by introducing and passing legislation to withdraw Federally-controlled public land from mineral extraction activities. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Mike Gallagher (WI CD 8) were urged to join those states and get on board to protect Wisconsin waters. However, despite Sen. Baldwin having received over 330 letters urging her to do so, there has been no response to these pleas, neither from Sen. Baldwin nor from Rep. Gallagher.

Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Gallagher have frequently stated their commitment to the wellbeing of Wisconsin small business, small farms, and working families. They have even been explicit in their claims to address PFAS contamination. Our elected officials, and that includes Rep. Tom Tiffany and our legislators in Madison as well Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Gallagher, need to listen to their constituents, heed the lessons of mine pollution history and act upon that which they claim commitment to. Hopefully, they will hit on the truth about mines, and see through the mining industry’s old saw about mines creating jobs as nothing more than a profiteering scheme. Looking more closely, they will realize that metallic mining has rarely been shown to benefit the community in which it operates. Rather, after the mining company has pulled out, that community is left with long-term mine pollution problems and difficulty attracting new job opportunities.

The Wisconsin small farms, small businesses, and working Wisconsin families that our elected officials are fond of referencing can only be sustained if they have ready access to clean water. A viable future for them may not be secured if the Green Light Metals project is approved. Clean water is therefore not negotiable. Our very lives depend upon it.

— Juliana Reimann, Madison