For Immediate Release: Sept. 18, 2017

Justin Hayes, Idaho Conservation League, Program Director, 208.345.6933 x 24
Bryan Hurlbutt, Advocates for the West, Staff Attorney, 208.342.7024 x 206

Atlanta Gold Again Found Guilty of Illegal Arsenic Releases to Boise River

Defunct Mine in Headwaters of Boise River Hit with $502,000 in Penalties

Boise, Idaho – A federal court has ruled that the Atlanta Gold mining company is illegally discharging arsenic from its mine into Montezuma Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Ruling in favor of the Idaho Conservation League (ICL), the U.S. District Court held that Atlanta Gold violated the Clean Water Act 567 times in the past 5 years, ordering Atlanta Gold to clean up its act and to pay a $502,000 penalty.

The Sept. 15 ruling marks the second time that the court has found Atlanta Gold guilty of illegal pollution at its mine. In a 2012 lawsuit, the court also ruled in favor of ICL finding that the mine had violated the Clean Water Act on 2,000 occasions, levying a penalty of $2 million.

"Sadly, the people of Idaho have seen this movie before," said Justin Hayes, with the Idaho Conservation League. "Same company, same mine, same arsenic discharges to the same river – just five years later. The Boise River and the people of Idaho deserve better."

In addition to Clean Water Act violations, this latest ruling also found Atlanta Gold in contempt of court for failing to adhere to the court’s 2012 order directing Atlanta to comply with water quality laws.

"This decision sends a strong message to Atlanta Gold and other polluters that they are not above the law," said Bryan Hurlbutt with Advocates for the West. "When state and federal agencies fail to enforce the law, it’s up to citizens to use the courts to protect the Boise River."

The Boise River provides nearly 20 percent of the drinking water consumed in the city of Boise and is the most popular river in Idaho for fishing, floating and camping.

In his ruling, Federal Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush found:

"[T]he Court is not persuaded by Atlanta Gold’s assertions that it is unable to treat the contaminated water more effectively such that full compliance with the terms of the Permit could be achieved.… Testimony at the evidentiary hearing established that there are reasonable means for Atlanta Gold both to expand the capacity of the current treatment system and to better control the flow of contaminated water into and through the treatment system. The Court also concludes that Atlanta Gold has not diligently and sufficiently pursued additional solutions that could bring the treatment system into full compliance with the terms of the Clean Water Act permit[.]"

"The Boise River is more precious than gold to our community," said Hayes. "It’s time for Atlanta Gold to stop this pollution – and for the government to get serious about properly regulating mines in Idaho."

Advocates for the West, a public-interest law firm, provided legal representation to ICL in this and prior cases against Atlanta Gold.

Download a copy of the court’s ruling.

Since 1973, the Idaho Conservation League has worked to protect the air you breathe, the water you drink and the land you love. As Idaho’s leading voice for conservation, ICL represents Idahoans who want to protect Idaho’s natural heritage and leave a legacy for Idaho’s future generations. ICL works on a breadth of issues and is successful because of the support and involvement of our statewide members.