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Lawsuits seek to overturn EPA's water quality variance for Mesabi iron plant

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A local environmental group and two northeast Minnesota Chippewa bands are challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to approve a water variance for Mesabi Nugget, claiming it allows the iron processing plant to dump excessive contaminants into the St. Louis River.

The Associated Press reports two similar lawsuits filed Monday by WaterLegacy and by the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Chippewa Indian bands say under the variance, the plant near Hoyt Lakes can improperly discharge high levels of salts, bicarbonates, hardness and other toxins that threaten wild rice beds and other aquatic organisms.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approved the plant's water quality variance last October, saying there would be no adverse impacts on aquatic life and wild rice beds downstream, according to the Associated Press. The EPA signed off on it last December.

The groups seek to overturn the EPA's decision, which they say violates the Clean Water Act and other federal regulations.

The EPA said they don't comment on pending litigation.

KSTP has full copies of the lawsuits.

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