Board Upholds Discharge Permit for NE Arizona Mine   

Business Week (AP)

07 October 2011

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—A coal mining company can continue sending treated storm water from its northeastern Arizona operation into nearby washes and tributaries after an appeals board denied a review of the discharge permit.

Environmentalists and members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes had appealed the permit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued for Peabody Energy Corp.'s mining complex. They argued to an administrative appeals board that the discharge of heavy metals and pollutants threatens water resources that Navajo and Hopi communities depend on for drinking, farming and ranching, and that the EPA failed to impose limits.

In a ruling announced this week, the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board said the groups did not show a review was warranted on any of the grounds they presented. The board finalized the permit that has been administratively extended since it expired in 2006, so it now expires in October 2015.

The petitioners said Friday that they are reviewing the decision to determine whether to challenge it in federal court. Andy Bessler, of the Sierra Club, said it does not erase the concerns of local residents, who want the water stored in ponds at the mining site to be treated and released to farmers downstream and to desert riparian areas.

"As usual, Peabody is putting profits before the health of the environment and the concerns of local residents," he said.

The mining complex sits on nearly 65,000 acres that Peabody leases from the Navajo and Hopi tribes and has been in operation since the 1970s. Beth Sutton, a spokeswoman for Peabody, said the decision "reinforces Peabody's record of compliance with the Clean Water Act and that claims by activists had no basis."

Water discharge from Peabody's mining complex includes storm water and runoff from mining, coal preparation and reclamation areas that is held in more than 230 ponds. The EPA noted in reviewing the permit that about 33 of the ponds had leaks and that some don't meet water quality standards, need additional monitoring or removal.

The permit changed little from a previous one EPA had issued in 2000, with a revision to a seep monitoring and management plan that requires Peabody to stop any leaks.

Many of the ponds are internal and used for storage and treatment. About 111 ultimately discharge to the Little Colorado River system through a series of washes and tributaries.

None of the water bodies that receive discharges from the mining site has been identified as impaired by the Hopi Tribe or the Navajo Nation, nor by the EPA, the agency said.

"We were certainly looking for all the data and information we could to suggest those problems existed, but we didn't find it," said Dave Smith, water permits manager in the EPA's San Francisco office.



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.