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Phelps Dodge to Pay $105,000 to Settle Water Pollution Violations
Release Date: 2/19/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, 415/947-4248
SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a $105,000 settlement with Phoenix-based Phelps Dodge for discharging polluted water containing copper and sulfide from the Christmas Mine to a tributary of the Gila River.
The inactive copper mine near Winkleman, Ariz. discharged pollutants at levels harmful to aquatic life into the Drippings Springs Wash in 2000 and 2001. The company also failed to report monitoring results required by the discharge permit, failed to notify the EPA of discharges endangering the environment and of facility changes that caused the permit violations.
"Inactive mines can pose serious environmental risks and permit holders must make sure that pollutants are not discharged from their facilities," said Catherine Kuhlman, the EPA's acting Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Phelps Dodge has an obligation to prevent mine drainage from impacting streams in Arizona."
The Christmas Mine, located along the Gila River, mined and processed copper from the early 1900's until 1981.
Groundwater from mines becomes polluted when it comes into contact with mining waste, such as tailings or waste rock. The polluted water then flows to the surface and contaminates water bodies. Copper and sulfides are toxic to fish and the food sources fish depend on.
The wastewater discharge program, which was recently delegated to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, controls water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. The permits contain limits on what can be discharged, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge protects human health and the environment.