The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it fined the operator of a Southeast Alaska gold mine $534,500 in a settlement agreement stemming from scores of wastewater discharge violations, the unauthorized release of acid-rock-drainage into a lake, and other missteps.
Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle, said a 2015 inspection and a review of records helped provide a clear picture of daily operations at the mine 45 miles northwest of Juneau.
“Coeur Alaska can and must do better in order to comply with our fundamental laws that protect people and the environment,” Kowalski said in a statement.
Kensington generates and manages large volumes of wastewater and stormwater containing pollutants that can damage water quality and wildlife, he said. Kensington and other hard-rock mining operations can “dramatically” reduce their impact on waters if they follow permit requirements, the statement said.
Many alleged violations were documented in the inspection, which involved the EPA and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. They include:
• 200 wastewater discharge violations.
• Unauthorized discharge of acid rock drainage into Lower Slate Lake.
• Improper operation and maintenance of sampling equipment.
• Multiple effluent-sampling violations.
• Failure to develop a complete Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.
• Failure to repair a secondary containment structure for over a year that holds a majority of the facility’s fuel.
• Failure to conduct required monitoring, assessments, inspections and trainings.
• Failure to use proper sample handling and analysis procedures.
• Failure to report releases of nitrate compounds annually from 2013 to 2017.
The settlement consists of three separate fines approved in recent days: $240,000 for industrial wastewater discharge violations, $210,000 for stormwater discharge violations and $84,500 for failing to report releases of nitrate compounds under the Toxics Release Inventory.
As part of the settlement, Coeur Alaska also signed an agreement to ensure that acid rock drainage would be collected and treated before it’s discharged into Lower Slate Lake. Starting Aug. 1, the state modified Kensington’s individual permit to allow the release of residual acid rock drainage into the lake.
The drainage must now be treated to meet discharge limits based on water-quality standards, said an email from Mark MacIntyre, an EPA spokesman.
As part of the agreement, Coeur Alaska neither confirms nor denies the facts in the agreements, the agency said.