The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe has been granted a five-month extension to get its wastewater treatment facilities into compliance with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order.
The issue has been a lightning rod against the band, which has been vocal in its environmental criticism of a proposed iron ore mine.
Bad River asked for the extension to fix violations at its three wastewater treatment facilities. They blame contracting problems and a very cold winter for delays. In a letter dated Feb. 7, the EPA granted the extension to June 30.
Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins says they installed $1.6 million of their own money in advanced equipment, emergency wastewater storage and training for their operators.
“This is part of our efforts to live harmoniously,” said Wiggins. “Granted, this isn’t mining toxicity. This is a public utility – wastewater management, just like any other municipality, small town, city in the state of Wisconsin in which hundreds have issues. We’re no different.”
Last year, the conservative group Media Trackers attacked the Bad River Band for championing the fight against an open pit mine above the reservation in the Penokee Hills while having its own environmental violations. Wiggins expects more efforts to discredit the tribe by that group and other politicians.
“There are congressman and legislators in the state here pressuring the EPA for all of the information they can get on Bad River and their wastewater treatment issue,” said Wiggins. “Of course, that’s all an effort to make this an apples to apples, which it’s not.”
The EPA said they will monitor Bad River’s compliance and that if deadlines are missed, the band of Lake Superior Ojibwe could face enforcement action.