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Clean-Water Groups Fight Proposed Potash Mine in Osceola County

Bullkill Marsh is about 200 yards from the proposed potash facility near Hersey in Evart Township, Osceola County. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
Bullkill Marsh is about 200 yards from the proposed potash facility near Hersey in Evart Township, Osceola County. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
February 14, 2019

Updated 5:35 pm EST to include response from Michigan Potash Company CEO Ted Pagano.

HERSEY, Mich. – The fight continues over a potash-mining facility that broke ground in the fall near the Osceola County town of Hersey.

Recently, Michigan Potash Co. sent letters to several landowners, unilaterally extending their leases. The company claims that a court challenge by an environmental group to the permit has caused delays amounting to "force majeure," a legal term used to amend contracts when parties are unable to execute their agreements due to events out of their control.

Potash is a salt that is used as a fertilizer. The project would use 1.8 million gallons of water per day and produce wastewater brine that would be reinjected underground.

Opponents have said they're concerned the project would deplete and pollute the aquifer and send run off into nearby Bullkill Marsh.

Michigan Potash Co. chief executive Ted Pagano said the water would be returned deep enough to cause no harm. In the past, the company has said the facility would comply with all laws, would not harm the environment and would create about 150 permanent jobs.

Kenneth Ford is one of those leaseholders who does not want an extension. He also sits on the Osceola County Planning Commission and is a member of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which filed the complaint last summer against the Department of Environmental Quality.

Speaking on behalf of the environmental organization, Ford explained their opposition.

"We feel that they did not do due diligence in permitting this project," he said. "Among other things, they never reviewed the site where the plant is going to be built. It was OK'd from the office, and that's a DEQ spokesman's own words, at a hearing in Evart."

When contacted for response, the DEQ said it would look into the matter.

After the first five years of their leases, Ford said he wants the local landowners to insist on more protections from the company before voluntarily re-signing any leases..

"If they re-lease, it would be in their interest that there be no changes to the surface of their land,” he said, "that they would have guaranteed protection of their well water, they would have full insurance coverage of damage to property and environment, especially to water resources above and below ground."

A hearing before an administrative law judge could come by May.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation is asking the judge to throw out the permits, and wants Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to require proper hydrological studies, should the project be reconsidered.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI