Save the Scenic Santa Ritas disagrees with judge’s decision on water permit | Environment
The following is a June 14 news release from Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, about the water permit for Rosemont Copper:
An Administrative Law Judge today recommended that the state Water QualityAppeals Board approve Rosemont Copper Company’s proposed water permit even though it will allow the company to pollute local water supplies. The "aquifer protection permit," which is supposed to ensure that ground water supplies are protected from mining and other industrial activities, is one of several that Rosemont Copper must obtain before it can start blasting a massive open pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the Coronado National Forest just southeast of Tucson.
A coalition of southern Arizona ranchers, residents and businesses challenged the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's (ADEQ) decision to rubber-stamp the draft permit. The permit would allow the company to pollute area water supplies with dangerous pollutants for at least two years before the agency even considers setting pollution limits. The coalition cited the two-year loophole, as well as a number of other threats to area water supplies, in its appeal of ADEQ’s decision to approve the permit.
The matter now goes before the Arizona Water Quality Appeals Board, which has 30-days to accept, reject or modify the Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation. A judicial appeal can follow the decision of the Board.
“We are disappointed in the Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation,“ said lead appellant
Greg Shinsky, who lives three miles from the proposed copper mine. “Without exception, ADEQ did not do any independent, technical review or analysis of the impacts Rosemont's mine would have on groundwater in our region. The agency simply accepted Rosemont's bought and paid for technical reports as fact.”
In addition to the provision allowing Rosemont to pollute area groundwater for at least two years before ADEQ even considers setting pollution standards, other key issues cited in the appeal include the ADEQ's:
- Failure to conduct an independent evaluation of the data provided by Rosemont;
- Failure to assess surface water impacts
- Failure to assess known major modifications to the mine resulting from Forest Service
- NEPA review of Mining Plan of Operations; and
- Failure to impose discharge limits at the actual source of the pollution.
“Our appeal makes clear that ADEQ is totally beholden to Rosemont when it is supposed to be ensuring that our water supplies are protected. "There's something seriously wrong here. That this permit could be issued demonstrates what a sham the so-called aquifer protection process is in Arizona. We hope that the Appeals Board will recognize this permit’s deficiencies and send it back to DEQ. We are going to explore all of our legal options.” Shinsky added.
In addition to the ADEQ permit, Rosemont needs a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit, which is issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already expressed in writing the seriousness of its concerns about the proposed permit.
EPA has indicated that the permit be considered for elevation to Washington, DC and possible veto of the permit should the Corps recommend issuance. At this point, the Corps has not made a decision on the permit and is awaiting the Final Environmental Impact Statement from the
Forest Service on the proposed mine.