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U.S. Silver Corporation pays EPA $87,000 to settle Clean Water Act violations in Idaho’s Silver Valley

Release Date: 05/16/2011
Contact Information: Mark MacIntyre, EPA/Seattle 206-553-7302, macintyre.mark@epa.gov, Eva DeMaria, EPA/Seattle 206-553-1970, demaria.eva@epa.gov

(Seattle – May 16, 2011) U.S. Silver Corporation, owner and operator of the Coeur and Galena Mines and Mills near Wallace in Idaho’s “Silver Valley,” has agreed to pay $87,000 in penalties to settle federal Clean Water Act discharge violations.

The agreement, captured in a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) between EPA and U.S. Silver, resolves the company’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit violations and unpermitted discharges at the mines and mills that occurred from 2008 to 2010.

According to Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, discharge violations in the Silver Valley are especially troubling.

“The South Fork Coeur d’Alene River and its tributary streams are struggling to recover from a century of mine waste discharge,” Kowalski said. “Companies need to ensure that they are not only meeting their permit obligations, but also investing in their plant and equipment to protect Idaho’s rivers and streams for future generations.”

Officials familiar with the case confirm that U.S. Silver’s violations included unpermitted discharges of mine tailings and exceedances of the NPDES permit’s effluent limits for copper, lead, and mercury.

In addition to paying the $87,000 penalty, U.S. Silver recently made structural improvements to its tailings pipelines to reduce risk of future spills, and encouraged employees to become more vigilant in preventing and reporting accidental spills.