Board may ban rock blastingThe Ashland County Board may vote on an ordinance banning the use of explosives if it disturbs asbestos in rock formations.
By: Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The Ashland County Board may vote on an ordinance banning the use of explosives if it disturbs asbestos in rock formations.
That includes the proposed iron ore mine site in the Penokee Range.
Pete Russo says he’s getting many calls from concerned citizens. The Ashland County Board Chairman says they’re worried about asbestos and mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer caused by airborne asbestos fibers.
Recently reports surfaced by a scientist and Department of Natural Resources that asbestos fibers are in at least part of the ore body that Gogebic Taconite hopes to mine. The DNR says they need more information before they know if that ore body is dangerous, while Northland College Geoscience Professor Tom Fitz calls the asbestos lethal.
Russo called a special meeting of the Mining Impact Committee for 10 a.m. Wednesday, and will hear testimony from Fitz and the DNR. Then, he says they’ll consider an ordinance that would ban using explosives on asbestos rock.
“What I’m saying is this: If you’re going to blast, if you do, you better have a way of capturing that asbestos somehow or another so it does not get into the air around here and the air quality gets ruined,” Russo said. “I don’t know how that’s going to happen. We’ve got to protect our citizens in Ashland County.”
But GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz says a county ordinance isn’t needed. He says there are protections in place when a company mines an area that has asbestos deposits.
“What we would have to do is demonstrate the likelihood of running into it, and then demonstrate what we would do for safety precautions for the public and for workers,” Seitz said. “If we can’t be safe that way, we don’t get a permit.”
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and OSHA have asbestos exposure guidelines, but neither agency was available for comment because of the partial federal government shutdown.
Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard locally on 91.3 KUWS-FM and online at www.wpr.org.