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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: Mining Settlement; Machine Shop Owners Sentenced; Farmer to Restore Wetlands

 Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news

Douglas Mining Settles Coeur d’Alene Basin Claims, Agrees to 50-Year Installment Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the Dept. of Justice, Dept. of the Interior, Dept. of Agriculture and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe today lodged a consent decree with Douglas Mining Co. in the U.S. District Court in Idaho.

The settlement resolves claims brought under the  Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) concerning mining activities conducted by Douglas Mining Co. dating back to the early 1900s.

According to the complaint, since the late 1800s, mining of metals, including silver, lead, zinc, cadmium, copper and gold, has occurred within the Coeur d’Alene Basin. Between the late 1800s and late 1960s, mining practices included disposal and release of mine tailings directly into and along the banks of the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and its tributaries, or into numerous waste rock piles and tailings impoundments in the Basin drainage. Mining operations created numerous voids and other mine openings through which water contaminated with hazardous substances has been, and in many cases continues to be, released. Smelter operations and other mine processes resulted in the release of hazardous substances by various pathways, including air emissions and discharges to water.

According to EPA, the mining operations ” have released an estimated 100 million tons of mining wastes into the river system. Over time, these wastes have been distributed over more than 160 miles of the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Rivers, lakes and floodplains.”

Douglas’ Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site was listed on

EPA’s National Priorities List in 1983. The Bunker Hill Site consists of three operable units. Operable Units 1 and 2 are located within a twenty-one square mile area, in the location of historic smelting operations, referred to as “the Box.” EPA issued Records of Decision for Operable Units 1 and 2 in 1991 and 1992, respectively. The cleanup of Operable Units 1 and 2 is ongoing.

Operable Unit 3 consists of the areas located outside of the Box where mining related contamination has come to be located in the Coeur d’Alene Basin, adjacent floodplains, downstream water bodies, tributaries and fill areas.

EPA issued an interim Record of Decision, which addresses the first phase of a comprehensive remedy for Operable Unit 3 in September 2002.

Douglas Mining agreed to pay the United States and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe two percent of the revenue it receives from smelters, refiners, or other purchaser of minerals for a period of 50 years.

According to EPA it has incurred past response costs of more than $230 million at the site and expects to incur future response costs of more than $2.05 billion.  The Natural Resource Trustees have assessed over $800 million in potential natural resource

damages, in connection with the Coeur d’Alene Basin Site.

 

Machine Shop Owners Plead Guilty to Hazardous Waste Violations

Two brothers who operate a machine shop in Jackson, Mich. were sentenced for misdemeanor and felony charges stemming from a March 2008 incident in which hazardous materials were allegedly discharged into a storm drain in Blackman Township. The incident was investigated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Investigation Section, it announced on Tuesday.

Thomas and Michael Latka, and a business they operate, L & L Industries, Inc. were sentenced on a felony charge of knowingly releasing or causing the release of trimethylbenzene–a hazardous substance used as a gasoline additive and as a sterilizing agent and in the manufacture of dyes, perfumes, and resins–in violation of state laws. They were also sentenced to a misdemeanor charge of allowing the discharge of liquid industrial waste into the soil, or into surface water or groundwater or into a drain or sewer, which also violates Michigan environmental laws.

In a plea agreement negotiated by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the Latka brothers each pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of discharging liquid industrial waste, and the corporation – L & L Industries – pled guilty to the felony count. The Latkas were fined $200 each on the misdemeanor counts, and the corporation agreed to pay a $10,000 fine on the felony as restitution to the State of Michigan. One payment of $2,500 has been received, according to DNRE.

The investigation began in March 2008, when the DNRE’s Water Resources Division received information that waste liquid containing machine cutting oil was being released onto the soils and into a storm drain at the rear of a facility known as L & L Industries Incorporated (L & L), located at 2588 Airport Rd. in Jackson.

L & L produces mostly precision metal parts for the aerospace, aircraft industry from various metals, such as titanium, aluminum, stainless steel and a variety of other alloys. The operation of metal working machines such as those used at L & L requires the constant use of a lubricant or coolant. The processes used at L & L results in the generation of oily scrap metal shavings as well as machine waste coolant containing metals.

L & L has not manifested any waste coolant offsite since 1999 and claims that it did not change out its machine coolant, and instead just added to it. According to DNRE, L & L’s operational processes and waste management practices are believed to be the cause of the detection of hazardous substances such as 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene and 4-Chloro-3-methyl-phenol, two of the detectable compounds found in the Trim E206 coolant which has been regularly used at L & L for the past several years.

In September 2008, a search warrant was served at the facility and additional sampling evidence was obtained by DNRE investigators.

According to investigators, L & L management acknowledged that waste liquids along with scrap metal shavings were being placed into uncovered, leaking scrap metal bins at the back of the facility and that this waste liquid was going into the storm drain. They also acknowledged that the storm drain likely went to a swamp or stream and that the release of their waste coolant wouldn’t be good for the fish, wildlife and drinking water. L & L management has since taken some corrective actions to include placing a large protective wooden structure over the scrap metal bins to keep rain water out.

The Hon. Michael Klaeren entered the misdemeanor sentences in the 12th District Court in Jackson County, while the Hon. John McBain entered the felony sentence in the 4th Circuit Court in Jackson County.

 

Massachusetts Farm Owners to Restore Wetlands

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the owners of Meredith Farm to restore wetlands and streams on its 160-acre plot in Topsfield, Mass. The wetlands were excavated and filled between 2006 and 2007 while the farm’s drainage system was expanded – widening and deepening a stream channel, and creating a pond.

According to EPA, Christopher and Bonnie Nash violated the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) by failing to obtain the required federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before performing work in the wetlands. Under the Clean Water Act, persons who discharged dredged and/or fill material into wetlands must obtain, in most cases, a federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

EPA’s order requires Mr. and Mrs. Nash to restore the drainage system to its pre-construction size, remove the dredged ”fill” material and remove the drain leading to the pond. After this has been accomplished, the disturbed wetland areas must be seeded with a wetland conservation seed mix and be allowed to revert back to their natural wetland state. Prior to their alteration, the wetlands and waterways located on Meredith Farm formed a system of forested and scrub-shrub wetlands that flowed directly into the Ipswich River. Restoring the wetlands will have a positive ecological impact on wetlands in the area and the Ipswich River.

Wetlands provide large volumes of food that attract many animal species. These animals use wetlands for part of or all of their life-cycle. Dead plant leaves and stems break down in the water to form organic material which feeds many small aquatic insects and small fish that are food for larger predatory fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals.

In addition to providing valuable wildlife habitat, wetlands also help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities. Wetlands filter and clean water by trapping sediments and removing pollutants. Wetlands also provide buffers against floods as they store enormous amounts of flood water. Wetlands also store and slowly release water over time, helping to maintain water flow in streams, especially during dry periods.

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