EPA, DOJ reach settlement for South Fork Coeur d’Alene River pollution
“The last thing rivers like the South Fork Coeur d’Alene need are unpermitted discharges and permit violations,” EPA Seattle Office Director of Compliance and Enforcement Ed Kowalski said. “Compliance with wastewater discharge permits is critical to protecting Idaho’s waterways. By maintaining the integrity of its discharges and ponds, and reporting problems quickly, Hecla can help protect and restore the health of the South Fork and its tributaries.”
The South Fork Coeur d’Alene River was already in a compromised state, the legacy of sustained mining operations, and has high levels of zinc and cadium, which have left some tributaries inhospitable to wildlife and others only suitable for migration. An EPA investigation found that Helca had committed almost 500 violations, including effluent limit violations and unpermitted discharges, that exacerbated the river’s high levels of metals. Additionally, Helca did not report incidents such as a turbid runoff that destroyed a fish hatchery.
In addition to addressing the violations, Helca will pay a $600,000 penalty.