Reserve Mining Company, Silver Bay, MN, 1970s
On February 17, 1972, the U.S. Justice Department sued the Reserve Mining Company, alleging that the firm’s taconite plant in Silver Bay, MN, was dumping waste rock contaminated with asbestos-like fibers into Lake Superior. The resulting legal battle lasted five years and raised serious questions about the safety of drinking water in Duluth and other communities along the North Shore. U.S. District Court Judge Miles Lord briefly shut down the plant, but a federal appeals court reversed his ruling and allowed the plant to continue operations while the company built an on-land disposal facility. In the end, the case established an important legal precedent—that the federal government does indeed have the power to set and enforce pollution standards.
Photo via Minnesota Historical Society