EPA, DOJ reach settlement over South Fork Coeur d’Alene River pollution
In addition to addressing the violations, Helca will pay a $600,000 penalty as part of the deal.
“The last thing rivers like the South Fork Coeur d’Alene need are unpermitted discharges and permit violations,” Ed Kowalski, the EPA Seattle Office director of compliance and enforcement, 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 Hecla allegedly committed almost 500 violations between 2009 and 2014, including effluent limit violations and unpermitted discharges, that exacerbated the river’s high levels of metals. Additionally, Hecla did not report incidents such as a turbid runoff that destroyed a fish hatchery.