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EPA Orders Asarco to Apply for Acid Mine Discharge Permit
Release Date: 2/5/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, 415/947-4248
SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today ordered Phoenix-based Asarco Inc. to apply for discharge permits for its inactive Trench Camp Mine and January Adit sites south of Patagonia, Ariz.
Both mines are discharging acid mine drainage containing zinc, copper and cadmium above water quality standards into Alum Gulch, which eventually drains into Patagonia Lake. Discharges of acid mine drainage from the sites contribute to water quality problems in Alum Gulch.
Under the EPA order, Asarco must apply for the permits, control or treat acid mine drainage and stormwater runoff from the mining waste, and monitor the sites quarterly for discharges. A fine of up to $27,500 per day can be assessed for each day of non-compliance with each part of the order.
"Inactive mines, as well as active mines, need to be permitted to control pollution," said Catherine Kuhlman, the EPA's acting Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Asarco has a responsibility to get the necessary permits, and to control acid mine drainage and stormwater runoff from its inactive mines that flow into water bodies, especially Alum Gulch -- a creek already impaired by mining activity."
The pollutant discharge permit program 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 does not hurt water quality or people's health.
The Trench Camp Mine, a former mine, mill and smelter, mined and processed lead, zinc, and silver betyween 1939 and 1957. The January Adit is a nearby mine.
The two sites are located in the Patagonia Mountains where there have been numerous historical mining operations. In abandoned mines like these two, groundwater becomes polluted when it comes into contact with the ore in the old mine tunnels. This polluted water then flows to the surface and contaminates streams like Alum Gulch.