Chemical Spill at Eagle Mine
On Saturday morning, local fire department volunteers were alerted of a chemical spill that had occurred at Kennecott’s Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains in Marquette County. About 100 gallons of hydrochloric acid from the wastewater treatment plant were leaked from a faulty valve. The acid was reportedly neutralized and circulated back through the wastewater treatment plant, which then releases discharge water into a drain field just uphill of the Salmon-Trout River headwaters. According to a Mining Journal article, Kennecott officials stated they were not overly concerned about any potential environmental damages.
“That is not a surprising attitude,” says Emily Whittaker, Executive Director of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. “The question now is, if they are leaking chemicals before they have even begun to process minerals, what should we expect once the mine is fully operational? According to the company’s track record and its current attitude toward the situation, we can make a pretty good guess.”
It is once again important to remember how critical monitoring this project is for local communities concerned about public and environmental health. While the mining company considered this a “relatively small” spill, hydrochloric acid is a strong, highly corrosive acid which can be very harmful to human tissue. If exposed, whether they are employees or the local emergency responders, there is potential for damage to lungs, eyes, and skin. The U.S. EPA regulates hydrochloric acid as a toxic substance. The only true way of protecting local resources is for local communities to monitor their condition, considering Kennecott did not have to report this to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
YDWP will continue to keep an eye on the situation and be a leading force in monitoring our local resources to ensure our community is protected. If you are interested in helping to volunteer the condition of the local waterways, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.