by FELICIA FONSECA
Business Week (AP)
07 October 2011
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
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.
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
Peabody is putting profits before the health of the environment
and the concerns of local residents," he said.
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."
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.
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.
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