Press Release July 31, 2018
MCWC Challenges DEQ Potash Permits
Michigan Citizen’s for Water Conservation, on behalf of our members, has filed another
petition for a contested case hearing over permits issued by the DEQ. Merely 8 miles
from the contested Nestle operation in Evart, the DEQ granted permits for 8 solution
mining wells and 3 disposal injection wells to Michigan Potash Operating, LLC on June
1, 2018. The process was so flawed and did so little to follow Michigan legal
requirements, that we had to challenge these permits.
Michigan’s environmental review process used to be a shining example to other states.
Permits weren’t issued until the entire project had been studied and reviewed with public
involvement. This potash debacle shows how that system has deteriorated. A two-inch
thick Environmental Impact Statement has devolved into a five-page “fill-in-the-blanks”
form called an “Environmental Assessment”. In other words, no study was made.
The DEQ actively discourages public participation by operating in secret. In the
instance of these well-permits, the public was kept in the dark for almost a year, when a
public hearing was abruptly announced. There wouldn’t have been a hearing if it hadn’t
been for all the letters sent to the DEQ by outraged citizens. The result? The DEQ
spent a year listening solely to a Colorado-based LLC, then gave private citizens 3
whole minutes to offer their input.
Many of those citizens live close to MPC’s site, some for generations. They have
intimate knowledge of the land and its aquifers, springs, streams, and wetlands, but the
DEQ wasn’t interested. Instead of welcoming this vital information, the DEQ held a
sham hearing, then gave the public seven days to comment. Seven days, after
Michigan Potash bent their ear for a whole year!
Case: “Michigan’s environmental laws were enacted for very good reasons which are
even more important today with the world coming to exploit our most valuable resource,
fresh water. Once Michigan Potash drills 11 injection-wells at $1 million each, who will
dare question the rest of the project?”
Solution-mines experience multiple leaks, spills, and outright ruptures with corrosive
fluids pumped at extreme pressure. Cargill Corporation is still dealing with three
contamination-plumes at the now-defunct Mosaic site nearby.
The DEQ hasn’t even looked at the site. (A so-called “On-Site Review” was done from
its office in Lansing). It drains from all sides into numerous wetlands and drainages
feeding four different creek systems (including 3 trout-streams). The area is underlain
by complex, unprotected aquifers supplying residential wells and feeding the
surrounding wetlands and streams.
MPC suggested it would use 1200 gallons per minute of fresh water at the site, (three
times what Nestle wants to take). The DEQ seems to have authorized the use of 1380
gallons per minute. There has not been, nor can there be, proof of MPC’s ability to
sustain such water withdrawals without damage to area wells and to the aquifer: The
company has done no hydrogeological testing. It relies on 35-year-old studies from a
Mining ventures often go bankrupt, and the DEQ has protected itself by requiring bonds
to pay for plugging abandoned wells. Nothing was required to protect MPC’s neighbors.
Should this operation fail for any number of likely reasons, there is no protection offered
to citizens or the environment.
The company faces serious financial disadvantages at the outset, including: lack of
experience, the absence of existing infrastructure, a crippling debt-burden (from
borrowing a third-of-a-billion dollars), depressed prices the world is awash in potash
over supply, a lack of rail-access (forced to rely on high-cost trucking), and an inferior
site. An LLC is unlikely to fix things when they go wrong. These permits must be
We invite people to go to our website at: https://savemiwater.org/michigan-potash-company/
to learn more about this threat to our water resources.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
Also published on Medium.