Wisconsin

Bad River Chair: Water Pollution Would be “Genocide,” Mum on EPA Violations

Policy

By: Brian Sikma

Mike Wiggins, chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, declared that water pollution from a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin would be “genocide” for his people. Speaking at a joint committee hearing on a proposed regulatory reform bill that would allow a mine to proceed within environmental safeguards, Wiggins declared, “we view this as an act of genocide.”

Media Trackers on Monday released a report detailing that while the Bad River Band has been expressing serious concern with the proposed iron mine due to water quality concerns, the wastewater treatment plant on their reservation has been flagrantly violating EPA pollution discharge rules. Water pumped by the plant into the Bad River, according to EPA permits and reports, has had excessive amounts of E. coli, suspended solids, and phosphates.

Several progressive and liberal leaning news outlets have drawn attention to Wiggin’s “genocide” comment. Barbara With of the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative, an alternative progressive outlet, said wrote that “Wiggins has every right to be concerned. The Progressive magazine quoted Wiggins’ full statement about genocide:

 “I look at all of you, and you’re 75% water, probably Madison municipal water supply. We are 75% water from aquifers deeper than 1,000 feet that you’re not holding GTac accountable for. Because we’re directly downstream and set to endure the impacts of this project, we view this as an imminent threat. We view this as an act of genocide.”

Wiggins’ dedication to clean water may be up for question with the news that his government’s wastewater treatment plant has had hundreds of discharge and reporting violations over the years. A New York Times study found the Bad River facility to be the top violator of the Clean Water Act. EPA data discovered by Media Trackers shows 38 E. coli discharge violations, 33 phosphate discharge violations, and dozens of suspended solids discharge and reporting violations between 2007 and 2012.

Inquiries to Wiggins about his concern for clean water while his own government violates EPA water quality standards went unanswered at the time of this report.