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E-M:/ UP District DEQ Air Staff comment on White Pine

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

UP District DEQ Air Staff comment on dust control from
the Copper Range White Pine tailings basins:


                                         July 15, 2002

Mr. Alex Sagady
Alex J. Sagady and Associates
P.O. Box 39
East Lansing, MI  48823

Dear Alex:

I found your posting on Enviro-Mich regarding Particulate Matter to be very 
interesting.  In response to your mention of the White Pine Mine, I’m 
writing to update you on what steps have been taken to control fugitive 
dust from the tailings basins.

Early in 1997, representatives from the MDEQ and Copper Range met in 
Marquette to discuss mine closure issues.  From an air quality perspective, 
I viewed stabilizing the surface of the tailings basins as the number one 
priority.  In response to those concerns, Copper Range proposed 
revegitating the basins.  The proposal included a greenhouse study to be 
completed at Michigan Tech University to determine the most effective mix 
of seed and amendments.  Following this study, 200 acres of test plots on 
the North #2 Basin were planned for the summer of 1998.  Full scale 
reclamation was to begin in 1999.

We all remember what happened in the spring and summer of 1998.  A severe 
spring drought, combined with high temperatures and persistent northeast 
winds, created several tailings dust events in the Village of White 
Pine.  A number of steps were immediately taken to evaluate health risks 
from the dust and reduce the severity of future events:
1)      A rush analysis of the tailings was conducted for metals and 
particle size.  Toxicologists were asked to evaluate this data.

2)      PM10 monitors were rushed to White Pine to determine ambient 
particulate concentrations.

3)      Copper Range began pumping water from Lake Superior (25,000 gpm) 
onto the North #2 Tailings Basin.

The toxicological evaluation found that while the dust caused an acute 
nuisance, no chronic impacts were expected.

PM10 monitors were placed on the roof of the White Pine School.  The timers 
were set to operate the monitors on alternate 24 hour periods.  PM10 
concentrations in the town site were continually monitored from late May 
until well into the fall.  The monitors were again operated on a continual 
basis in 1999 whenever conditions were favorable for a dust 
event.  Although we were able to “capture” at least two significant dust 
events during 1998, no exceedances of the NAAQS’s for PM10 were 
recorded.  From this experience, I learned the real importance of Rule 
901.  Under Federal rules, we would have had no basis to require corrective 

The test plots (220 acres) were planted late in the summer of 1998 on the 
North #2 Basin.  In 1999, an additional 1,700 acres were treated with seed, 
fertilizer, and a variety of organic amendments.  Additional acreage was 
treated in 1999, 2000, and 2001.  The total area of the three tailings 
basins is approximately 5,400 acres.  The South Tailings Basin has been 
completely reclaimed.  The majority of the surface area on North #2 has 
been successfully revegitated.  Much of the North #1 Basin was already 
covered with vegetation that had naturally established itself over the 
years.  Several bare/thin spots have been treated on this basin with 
additional work scheduled for later this summer.

At this time the MDEQ is negotiating a long term performance and monitoring 
plan with Copper Range for the tailings basins.  This purpose of this plan 
is to assure that vegetation exhibits both long-term sustainability and is 
capable of preventing future dust events.

I will be evaluating the vegetation on each of the basins during 
early-to-mid August and invite you to accompany me.  I think you would 
agree that the transformation is quite impressive.  What once looked to be 
a landscape from Mars’ now resembles a very large pasture (albeit a bit 
flat).  Still, the true measure of success lies with those who live near 
the former mine.  The last dust complaint we received regarding the 
tailings basins was in April 1999.

In conclusion, it is a good feeling to know that I had some role in 
resolving what you described as “Perhaps the only remaining indication of 
such severe dust problems…”

Please call me at the number below if you have any questions or would like 
to arrange a visit of the tailings basins.


                                         Brian D. Brady
                                         Upper Peninsula District Supervisor
                                         Air Quality Division
                                         (906) 346-8505

cc:  Bob Delaney, ERD
       Richard Johns, AQD Asst. Chief
       Gerald Avery, AQD Field Coordinator
       MaryAnn Heindorf, AQD Monitoring

Alex J. Sagady & Associates  http://my.voyager.net/~ajs/sagady.pdf

Environmental Enforcement, Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste/Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

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