(Ketchum, ID) – The Idaho Conservation League and Advocates for the West today sent a warning letter to the state of Idaho, raising concerns over potential violations of the Clean Water Act.
ICL asserts that the state continues to discharge arsenic and other pollutants from the historic Triumph Mine site to the East Fork of the Big Wood River and nearby wetlands in Blaine County, near Ketchum, without necessary permits required by the Clean Water Act.
"The East Fork of the Big Wood River is a key tributary to the Big Wood River and provides important habitat for native trout and other species," said Dani Mazzotta, ICL’s Central Idaho director. "Unfortunately, we believe we have identified an unlawful discharge of water containing arsenic from the historic Triumph mine site."
The Clean Water Act requires cleanup of polluted water from industrial sites and other facilities before the water flows into surface waters, like the East Fork of the Big Wood River. In this case, it appears that the state of Idaho, which owns the site, has not secured the Clean Water Act permits and continues to discharge polluted water into a wetland area that connects to the river.
"The East Fork of the Big Wood River is a spectacular river stretch and our community deserves to know that everything is being done to keep the water clean."
In the 1990s, because of high levels of contamination and risks to health and the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed cleaning up the Triumph Mine site under the national Superfund program. Instead of supporting Superfund cleanup, the state convinced the EPA to let it work with the mining companies to implement the cleanup. But because of bankruptcy, those mining companies are no longer involved at the site, and the state and Idaho taxpayers remain responsible for managing and cleaning it up.
While the state of Idaho has completed some pollution prevention and cleanup at the Triumph Mine site, a contaminated waste rock pile remains and continues to pollute the East Fork of the Big Wood River, nearby wetlands, and potentially waters downstream.
Mazzotta concluded, "We believe that the state needs to take additional steps to comply with the Clean Water Act and ensure that the East Fork of the Big Wood River is no longer being subjected to arsenic contaminated water. After all, clean water is in everyone’s best interest."