Ashland County Considers Ability to Protect Residents from Asbestos

Oct 16, 2013

UPDATE  Area residents including members of the Bad River and Lac Courte Oreilles Bands  of Lake Superior Chippewa overflowed the board room. After long discussion the Ashland County Mining Impact Committee decided to reconvene next week, when the panel will review a bulk sampling  ordinance.  The chair assigned several committee members to prepare an ordinance that would not allow natural occurring asbestos to be disturbed.

Last week two scientists reported high levels of asbestos at a proposed mining site in northern Wisconsin.  Today Ashland County considers an ordinance to protect residents.

The scientists detected it in rock samples where Gogebic Taconite has been drilling; the company has questioned the scientists’ work.

Charlie Ortman serves on the Ashland committee. He says the panel will consider the findings, so far.

“We don’t have any ordinance regarding asbestos; it’s not been an issue in state laws and federal laws have been pretty strict regarding asbestos. So we’re kind of in a unique boat here. Do we let someone make a whole bunch of deadline asbestos fibers? Can we stop them if we want to?”

Ortman is a member of the Ashland County Board and its Mining Impact Committee. It meets today to consider drafting an asbestos ordinance.

Gogebic Taconite’s application to remove more rock from the proposed mining site is in motion.

The Department of Natural Resources says it must gather more information to determine if the ore body is dangerous, and if it is, can the company contain the hazards.