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MI Potash Mine Opponents Vow to Continue Fight

A potash mining project is slated for an area above a large marsh in Osceola County. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
A potash mining project is slated for an area above a large marsh in Osceola County.
(Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
October 28, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – Despite a legal setback, opponents of a proposed potash mine in Hersey, Mich., say they're not backing down.

The group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation filed a legal challenge to permits issued by the Department of Environmental Quality for potash mining wells in Osceola County.

More than a year later, and just days before the scheduled hearing in September, Administrative Law Judge Daniel Pulter said he didn't have jurisdiction to rule on the matter and cancelled the hearing.

MCWC board member Ken Ford, who lives near the site, argued this was just the latest setback in what he called a long, uphill battle.

"This whole handling of this affair by the DEQ is total obfuscation. They have done everything possible to deny the public information regarding this project,” Ford said. “And they've been delinquent actually taking a good hard look at the site, putting it in perspective and coming to reasonable conclusions."

MCWC is now appealing the dismissal, which the group said was based on the false notion that it did not submit a request to the Supervisor of Mineral Wells prior to appealing the permits.

The DEQ said that, of the opposing comments received during the permit review, none included any "matters of fact that would require the denial of the applications" under Michigan law.

Potash is used as fertilizer. And supporters of the project have said it would make Michigan the nation's leading domestic source. Opponents argue creating the mining wells will draw up to 2,000 gallons of water per minute from nearby aquifers.

Doug Miller, who lives next to one of the marshes that would be affected, added residents also are concerned about pipeline leaks and groundwater contamination.

"The fluids are injected under extremely high pressure, and if they can find any way to squirt their way back upwards, they'll take it,” Miller said. “And these old well bores often provide just perfect channels for that to travel back up and get into shallower aquifers."

Ford noted the community already got a glimpse into what could come should the project move forward. He said Michigan Potash and Salt Company did not install silt fences after stripping topsoil from a 12-acre site in November 2018.

"Silt was washing off this exposed topsoil site and running into the largest freshwater marsh in Osceola County,” Ford said. “It's home to trumpeter swans, bald eagles; all of which the DEQ denies – as did the Environmental Protection Agency – exist in this area."

MCWC's appeal will now go to the Environmental Permit Review Panel.

The Department of Environmental Quality was renamed this year. It is now called the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Disclosure: Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation contributes to our fund for reporting. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI