Cliffs fined for excessive hazardous waste

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. has agreed to pay a $242,973 penalty for excessive use of a hazardous waste at a landfill operated by Northshore Mining in Silver Bay.

The fine stems from incidents in the spring and summer of 2011 when a "corrosive hazardous waste leachate" was used to control dust at a nearby landfill at higher quantities than state permits allowed. Northshore Mining also delivered 38,900 gallons of leachate to a wastewater treatment plant in mid-July. The company failed to report that they had exceeded their permits until Sept. 9, 2011.

The settlement signals the company's willingness to improve handling of leachate at the landfill, said Sandy Karnowski, Cliffs district manager of public affairs in Minnesota.

"Northshore Mining was very responsive in the things they did after the situation," Karnowski said. "We changed some of our operating strategies. We installed technology as needed and we provided some training for our employees to ensure that this situation doesn't repeat itself."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said in a statement that the company had already completed five requirements of the settlement relating to leachate management and pH reduction, and that two requirements remained to be completed by December 2012.

Cliffs' Northshore Mining operation in Silver Bay has previously run into trouble with regulators. As recently as February, the company agreed to pay $240,175 for air quality violations at its taconite plant.

Under the environmental agreement, the company also agreed to spend $50,000 to renovate a hazardous waste collection facility operated by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.

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