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Idaho’s Water Quality Criteria for the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River Approved by EPA

Release Date: 3/4/2003
Contact Information: Paula VanHaagen
(206) 553-6977

March 4, 2003

Decision Affects Mine Discharge Permits

Idaho’s new “Site-Specific” water quality criteria for the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River have been approved by EPA. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality provided extensive technical documentation demonstrating that the new water quality criteria – covering cadmium, lead, and zinc – provide the same level of protection for aquatic life, while better reflecting local environmental conditions in the river basin. Technical studies and other work to develop the new criteria have been under way for the past eight years. Idaho submitted the site-specific criteria to EPA in August 2002 and provided additional technical justification in December 2002.

According to John Iani, EPA Regional Administrator in Seattle, the state’s proposal passed strict scientific scrutiny before being affirmed.

“The short version is that Idaho’s new criteria are backed up with solid science,” said Iani. “After careful review, we agreed that the new criteria would allow some flexibility for lead and zinc, but would still protect aquatic life and water quality in the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene river.”

EPA’s approval of Idaho’s site-specific criteria now make them effective under the federal Clean Water Act. The criteria now be used to set future discharge limits contained in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for facilities discharging wastewater to the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River.

On January 6, 2003, EPA released two (2) revised draft NPDES permits for the Coeur/Galena and Lucky Friday mining and milling operations that discharge wastewater to the South Fork Coeur d=Alene River and a tributary (Lake Creek).

Two sets of discharge limits were included in the revised permits, one set based on the Idaho water quality criteria that were current at that time, and one set based on the new, site-specific criteria. With EPA’s approval, the site-specific criteria now become the criteria that are effective under the Clean Water Act and will be the criteria upon which the final discharge limits for the mines are based.

To give those interested in commenting on the revised draft wastewater discharge permits for the Lucky Friday Mine and the Coeur/Galena Mines more time to organize and submit their thoughts, the U.S. EPA extended the public comment deadline an additional 45 days, until April 11, 2003. All comments must be in writing and addressed to:

Office of Water Director,
U.S. EPA, Region 10 (OW-130)
1200 Sixth Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98101.

The revised draft NPDES permits and related documents can be reviewed or obtained by visiting or contacting EPA’s Regional Office in Seattle between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday at the address above.

The fact sheets and revised draft permits are also available at:

EPA Field Office
1910 NW Boulevard
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814
(208) 664-4588

Idaho Dept. of Envir. Quality
Coeur d’Alene Regional Office
2110 Ironwood Parkway
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 83814
(208) 769-1422

Wallace Public Library
415 River Street
Wallace, Idaho
(208) 752-4571

The revised draft permits and fact sheets can also be found by visiting the Region 10 website at

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