FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 3, 2016
For more information, contact:
John Robison, Idaho Conservation League, 208-345-6933 ext. 13
Andrew Hawley, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, 503-768-6673
Bryan Hurlbutt, Advocates for the West, 208-342-7024, ext. 206
Atlanta Gold Still Polluting Boise River
Conservationists sue mining company over new water quality violations
Boise, ID – Today, the Idaho Conservation League and Northwest Environmental Defense Center reopened their lawsuit against the Atlanta Gold Corporation, alerting the Court to nearly 500 new violations of the Clean Water Act at their mine near Atlanta, ID.
"For over twenty years, the Atlanta Gold Corporation has dumped toxic levels of arsenic into the headwaters of the Boise River," said John Robison, public lands director at the Idaho Conservation League. "This is the third time that the Idaho Conservation League has sought to hold the mining company accountable for violating the Clean Water Act and polluting the Boise River. The company needs to take action to protect the water that flows down through our communities and we are going to hold them accountable until they do."
In 2012, the U.S. District Court of Idaho ruled in favor of the Idaho Conservation League and Northwest Environmental Defense Center, finding that Atlanta Gold discharged excessive amounts of arsenic and iron into the Boise River headwaters. The Court ordered Atlanta Gold to reduce its pollution levels and pay a $2 million penalty to the U.S. Treasury. Despite the Court’s order, Atlanta Gold has failed to make penalty payments according to schedule and continues to pollute in violation of its Clean Water Act permit.
"The Court already ordered Atlanta Gold to clean up their mess," said Advocates for the West attorney Bryan Hurlbutt, who represents the conservation groups. "Since Atlanta Gold ignored the Court, we are reopening the case and asking the Court to enforce its prior order."
Today’s court filings ask the Court to hold Atlanta Gold in contempt of court for failing to follow the 2012 order. The filings seek further financial penalties for Atlanta Gold’s new Clean Water Act violations and ask the Court to order Atlanta Gold to develop and implement a new plan to reduce its pollution and comply with the law.
For many years, Atlanta Gold has failed to properly control polluted water flowing from underground mine shafts the company owns. The company took over management of the historic mine site in the 1990’s and conducted additional underground exploration in hopes of developing a new mine. Discharge records indicate that this additional exploration significantly increased the pollution discharging from the site, and the Court confirmed that Atlanta Gold is responsible for cleaning up this pollution.
As noted by Federal District Court Judge Mikel Williams in his 2012 ruling, Atlanta Gold demonstrated a "history of attempting to delay compliance until it had its mine up and running."
"Unfortunately, even four years after Judge Williams’ ruling, Atlanta Gold is still grossly out of compliance with the Clean Water Act," noted Robison.
As documented in Atlanta Gold’s own monitoring reports and reported to the Court in today’s filings, Atlanta Gold has discharged unlawfully high levels of arsenic and iron 497 times since December 15, 2012. That is the day the Court ordered the company to come into compliance with its Clean Water Act permit limits, which are designed to protect water quality in Montezuma Creek, a headwater tributary to the Boise River.
"The Boise River provides over 30% of Boise’s drinking water and is critical to the quality of life in Southwest Idaho. From the Boise Greenbelt to our parks, the Boise River represents some of the best that the Treasure Valley has to offer. Just ask all the floaters, fishermen and swimmers. We’ve all worked hard to protect and sustain clean water in the Boise River. This has gone on long enough-Atlanta Gold needs to do its part and follow the law," concluded Robison.