Burlington Northern Santa Fe will resume payments to many Superior, Wis., homeowners to help offset the costs of cleaning taconite dust after the payments were suddenly halted this summer.
"Moving forward they will once again honor reimbursement claims for annual cleanup costs of taconite dust within a half-mile of the taconite facility and conveyor belt," Superior City Council Member Jenny Van Sickle said in a statement. "While I understand that this adjustment will not cover every single property currently affected by the taconite dust, the plan provides meaningful relief to the vast majority of those that have been receiving payments."
Residents reported that their claims were being denied starting in July, and BNSF previously said it had halted many payments after the company "identified irregularities that resulted in some claims being paid that were not anywhere near the Allouez facility."
The Superior City Council unanimously called for payments to resume in a resolution passed this month, and local legislators also voiced their concern.
Homes and properties in the neighborhood near the Allouez Taconite Facility and docks have long had to deal with taconite dust piling up on siding and windows. Since the 1970s, BNSF has paid claims to help offset the cost of cleaning.
About 200 residents received annual checks between $200 and $500. Van Sickle said most of those residents should be covered and payments will average about $400.
The Allouez Taconite Facility, built in 1892, is the largest iron ore dock in the Twin Ports, with 5 million tons of storage capacity and around 11 million tons of shipments per year.
"BNSF has always wanted to work closely with our neighbors near our Allouez facility," railway spokesman Ben Wilemon said in a statement. "We're still finalizing details; however, our intent is to ensure that property owners in the impacted area are compensated accordingly. We appreciate the partnership with City leadership."
Van Sickle is still asking the company to honor the claims submitted in 2020 that were denied or remain pending before "we start with a clean slate in 2021."
"I'm glad to get some finality on this," she said. "I hope that this stands tall for another 50 years at least."