Read the full article by Brady Slater (Duluth News Tribune)
“A letter this week signed by St. Louis County’s four rural-most commissioners is calling for immediate action to address solid-waste leachate discharged into Lake Superior. The local authority, meanwhile, defended itself, saying there was no basis for the outburst of concern.
The letter was sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In it, the commissioners call leachate a ‘clear and present danger’ to the lake, and called on the state and federal agencies to take ‘immediate action’ at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
‘Of particular concern is the Lakewood pump house, which supplies the Duluth municipal water supply and is located just 10.5 miles downstream from the WLSSD discharge site,’ said the letter obtained from Commissioner Keith Nelson.
WLSSD was not a recipient of the complaint, and was blindsided by the letter, said Executive Director Marianne Bohren, who received the letter through back channels and said she was ‘perplexed’ why commissioners would skip over WLSSD and go directly to regulatory authorities.
‘Our mission is clean water and we take that very seriously,’ Bohren told the News Tribune, adding that she was disappointed that concerns from the County Board came without contacting the local agency first. ‘We all need to work together, and we’re all necessary to keep the water clean.’
Leachate is a liquid byproduct of compressing landfill waste. The leachate processed at WLSSD is trucked in from landfills throughout the region, some capped and some still active.
The letter cites an annual discharge of nearly 5 million gallons of municipal solid-waste leachate into Lake Superior. Bohren confirmed the figure, calling it 0.04% of the 13.9 billion gallons of effluent treated annually at the Duluth-based plant located on the St. Louis River estuary leading into Lake Superior.
The four commissioners say the leachate is laced with contaminants. Primary among their concerns are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a human-made chemical with oil and water resistance commonly used in nonstick cookware, fast-food packaging and firefighting foam.
‘It’s so egregious we had to say something about it,’ said Nelson, who has touched on the issue multiple times during public board work. ‘My hope is that the letter will get the attention of regulatory agencies and have them examine the current permits WLSSD is operating under and make changes where appropriate’…”