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Lawsuits challenge EPA over MN iron plant

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Two lawsuits filed in federal court on Monday challenge a water quality variance that was issued to a northeast Minnesota iron producing facility.

  The suits seek to overturn a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to allow Mesabi Nugget near Hoyt Lakes to temporarily exceed water quality standards. The suits allege that variance violates the Clean Water Act, and will pollute the St. Louis River and other streams. 

The Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Ojibwe bands joined the group WaterLegacy in filing the suits.

"Changing those rules allows Mesabi Nugget to pollute in a way that will threaten aquatic life and threaten wild rice when there is feasible and available water quality treatment technology that could have solved the problem," said Paula Maccabee, an attorney for WaterLegacy.

Fond du Lac Chairwoman Karen Diver said pollution from Mesabi Nugget eventually flows through her band's reservation. 

"The St. Louis River has a one fish a month advisory on it now because of mercury in the fish," Diver said. "Heavy metals, sulfides, other discharges into the river have been increasing the pollutants in the river." 

The EPA declined to comment on pending litigation. Mesabi Nugget did not respond to requests for comment.