HELENA – Today on behalf of the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Western Environmental Law Center sent a notice of intent to sue Hecla Mining Company over continuing water pollution from the Troy Mine in northwestern Montana. The copper and silver mine, closed since 2015, contributes toxic mining pollution at a rate of hundreds of gallons per minute to Lake Creek, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
MDEQ has designated Lake Creek as “impaired,” meaning the creek is excessively polluted. The agency concluded that “the major source identified for nitrite plus nitrate in this waterbody segment appears to be due to the Troy Mine.” Water quality sampling between 2005 and 2011 identified exceedances of water quality standards for copper and lead in Lake Creek below the tailings impoundment. Sampling upstream of the tailings impoundment did not find concentrations of lead or copper above non-detectable levels. Yet, DEQ has done nothing to require Hecla to treat this pollution.
“Polluted water has seeped from the unlined tailings impoundment at the Troy Mine into Lake Creek every day for the last five years, and every day for many years before that,” said Andrew Hawley with the Western Environmental Law Center. “If DEQ would do its job, we wouldn’t have to go to court to force action on this obvious source of illegal pollution, but here we are.”
“This ongoing, unpermitted mine pollution is a legacy of John Shanahan, the former CEO at the mine. Shanahan is now the CEO of Tintina Resources, the company that tells Montanans not to worry about the likely pollution from the company’s proposed Smith River Mine,” said Jim Jensen of MEIC. “With mining companies, it is what they do, not what they say they will do that counts. It’s well beyond time for DEQ to enforce water protection laws here at Troy.”
The substances the mine and tailings impoundment are discharging include, but are not limited to, nitrite plus nitrate, copper, zinc, antimony, arsenic, lead, cadmium, uranium, iron, manganese, and dissolved solids.
“Once again MDEQ has given the mining industry a free pass, while leaving the public to deal with long-term pollution,” said Jensen. “Because of this regulatory failure, MEIC is once more forced to step forward to defend the public’s right to a clean and healthful environment and unpolluted waters.”
A copy of the notice is available here.
Andrew Hawley, Western Environmental Law Center, 206-487-7250, gro.w1531764464alnre1531764464tsew@1531764464yelwa1531764464h1531764464
Jim Jensen, Montana Environmental Information Center, 406-443-2520, gro.c1531764464iem@n1531764464esnej1531764464j1531764464