The Wisconsin state permits for a mining project include detailed site monitoring requirements to regularly verify that the mine is performing as planned and complying with all environmental protection standards specified in the permits. A mine operator must collect samples at locations approved by the DNR, ensuring the protection of air quality, surface water, groundwater, wetlands, and wildlife.
For example, a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit is required for any facility to discharge water to a surface waterbody. This permit will include stringent wastewater discharge limits that regulate the type, quantity, and concentration of various components in the water that can be safely discharged.
The discharge limits are set at levels that will protect beneficial uses of the receiving water, which typically means protecting fish and other aquatic life, allowing for people to continue to use and enjoy waterways.
This permit will stipulate the locations, types, and frequency of monitoring that is required to ensure the facility is complying with the discharge limits.
Monitoring consists of taking water quality samples that are analyzed by an independent, third-party laboratory and can also involve wetlands mapping and sampling, fish tissue tests, sampling and testing other aquatic species, and tests to measure air emissions. The monitoring results are provided to the DNR on a regular basis, as required in each permit.
Project monitoring plays an essential role in safeguarding the environment at mines and at other industrial facilities. First, monitoring provides real-time verification that the facility is complying with its permits. Second, monitoring functions as an early warning system to alert the operator and regulators that there may be the potential for an environmental problem that must be investigated and addressed. If there is a problem, the environmental monitoring system will detect it early.
In the event the monitoring system detects a potential problem, the operator must notify the state immediately. The DNR will require the operator to investigate the problem and develop and implement an appropriate corrective action plan to fix it. This early detection response mechanism minimizes potential risks to the environment and human health and safety by limiting the amount of time that a problem goes undetected and by requiring timely remediation in the event a problem is discovered.
Project monitoring is required for each step of the mining lifecycle. An operating mine site will have on-site environmental staff whose main function is to collect monitoring data in compliance with the permit requirements and to prepare monitoring reports presenting the monitoring data results.
Some mine facilities must be monitored on a continuous basis whereas others are monitored daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly as specified in the project permits. Different permits will have different requirements for monitoring and reporting. Companies must submit monitoring reports to the DNR on a regular basis defined by the permit. Once the reports are submitted, they become public documents.