RAMS BOARD MEETING:
December board meeting will be held on December 28 at 2:00 pm. This may be an executive officer session only, due to the conflicts with scheduling during the holiday season.
RANGE MAYORS MEETING:
January 17th – 11:30 @ NESC – meeting with Mayor Emily Larson from Duluth
December 18th – 12:30 PM – Wild Rice Community Coalition Conversation
Northeast Service Coop Office Building- RSVP required.
December 28th – NOON – Lunch and Learn with Area Legislators
RSVP required – lunch provided
Northeast Service Coop Office Building – 5525 Emerald Ave. Mt Iron
Message From Director
Science or Fiction on Wild Rice?
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has initiated the "rules making" process prior to implementation of a new standard in regards to revising the state water quality standards that apply to wild rice waters and will be proposing rules that:
*establish an equation for determining a protective sulfate value for wild rice waters
*identify the wild rice waters in Minnesota.
Minnesota is the only state in the nation that currently has a Wild Rice/Sulfate standard. Granted few states actually have natural stand of wild rice, as it is native to the upper midwest. However, neither Michigan or Wisconsin has found it necessary to establish a standard or take extreme protective measures over wild rice. Let it be understood, I appreciate the value and cultural importance of wild rice and hope that Minnesota continues to invest in research and environmental actions that will allow a continued healthy harvest of natural wild rice. What we must all accept is that the Minnesota state standard established in 1940 was not based on great science and even the MPCA has acknowledged that by rarely enforcing the 10 mg/L standard.
Now, the MPCA has released the findings of their research and here are a few of the pearls contained in the report: "The analysis of Study data thus far has documented:
"That sulfate is not directly toxic to wild rice."
"We know that treating sulfate pollution is expensive. Because the standard is site specific and tailored to the need of each wild rice water, it's far too early to say how much it will cost in the state or how particular industries may be affected"
"Physical treatment of sulfate using a Reverse Osmosis (RO) polishing process is the most feasible treatment alternative for municipal WWTP."
"The knowledge infrastructure to design a full-scale municipal wastewater plant with sulfate treatment in Minnesota does not currently exist and would have to be developed before a full-scale treatment plant could be constructed".
This is a report brimming with anecdotal statements, innuendo and hyperbole, buried in a mountain of possible solutions, with an ultimatum that if industry and communities were to invest billions of dollars they still cannot guarantee more or the same level of wild rice growth in our state.
So what can be done about this? There will be a "rules making hearing" at the Mesabi Community College auditorium on October 24th starting at 4:00 pm. An Administrative Law Judge will preside over the hearing so your statement will become part of the official rules making process. You can also comment on line at the MPCA's website, but the process to submit a comment is very cumbersome and trying. Call your local state legislator and ask them to speak up on this matter, send a message to the Governor.
I asked the engineers at SEH, the company that works with the City of Hoyt Lakes, for an estimate of the cost of a treatment system for the city. The daily volume of wastewater treated at Hoyt Lakes is about 625,000 gallons per day. A RO system would entail, pre-filtration to minimize clogging the RO filtration system, and then most like some method of dehydration of the brine - so effectively a 3 step process. Based on the unknowns in such an equation the best estimate is capitol costs between $3 - 5 million dollars and an annual operating cost of between $500,000 to $900,000.00. The current annual operating costs for the City of Hoyt Lakes for their wastewater treatment is $245,500.00 with residential user fee of $35 per month. Based on the above analysis, on the high end the city would have to triple their user fee to nearly $100 per month to treat for wild rice/sulfate and again that is dependent upon the level set by the MPCA for their discharge permit, and the brine being landfilled locally, not at a hazardous waste site.
RAMS will be loud and vocal on this matter, as again we care and advocate for our region, our communities, our schools and our future generations. How does bankrupting our small communities benefit anyone in the state? If we force mining companies to make a decision to continue to mine our rich ore bodies, or to buy it on the open market from foreign mining companies, does that place the domestic steel industry in peril of closing? We need common sense, and real science that stands up to peer review that will result in a proven outcome, not speculation and hopeful assumptions. Last session, Representative Ecklund was successful in passing legislation that gave the MPCA another year to get this issue resolved. Let's use the time wisely and explore all options and focus on the ones that are readily available, affordable and practical.