Georgia Pacific has shut down its hardboard plant in Duluth, idling almost 150 workers, because the Department of Natural Resources suspended the company's water use permit for the duration of the government shutdown.
Georgia Pacific makes hardboard used in auto interiors. It uses water from Lake Superior to cool its equipment. At the beginning of the government shutdown, the DNR sent notices to this plant and perhaps 300 others telling them their water use permits were being suspended. The agency said it wouldn't have staff to monitor water levels.
Georgia Pacific spokesperson Melodie Ruse says it's a difficult situation.
"It's affecting our employees, it's affecting the community, the local folks there, and we're hoping that the issue will be resolved very soon."
Taconite mines and paper plants are also affected by the permit suspension, but so far there are no reports of shutdowns in those industries.
The Georgia Pacific plant tried to operate as normal, but found it could not replenish its water from Lake Superior.
"Our plant requires water to operate all the equipment, and that requires permits, and since all permits are suspended because there's no one in the government to administer them and monitor water levels and those kinds of things, we have had to go ahead and shut down," Ruse explained.
Ruse says the company is likely to appeal to the Special Master to allow it to continue operating.