Recommended Actions for Permit Violations
Effectiveness of measures taken: Ecology should insist that Crown provide the agency with a critical investigation into the effectiveness of each mitigation measure it has implemented as part of the settlement of the July 2012 penalty for water quality violations. This evaluation was required by a July 19, 2016 administrative order but was never produced by the company. Evaluations are necessary to better understand the successes and failures of past actions and to help guide future actions. Ecology must make sure its role as regulator is not undermined by the company ignoring its authority with no consequences.
Communication about Violations: Each month, Crown/Kinross Discharge Monitoring Reports contain numerous violations. OHA recommends that Ecology inform the mining company that the violation(s) can be subject to significant penalties, and that the agency order corrective action. Ecology should administer its regulatory responsibility to ensure that Crown/Kinross follows through on orders and commitments to contain mine contaminants.
Stormwater monitoring: The mine attributes contaminant exceedences in part to contaminated stormwater; however, Ecology does not require monitoring or reporting of stormwater quality if it is captured and treated. Without adequate stormwater monitoring and transparent reporting of the results, it will be very difficult to understand the fate and transport of contaminants and to develop an effective remediation plan. This issue applies to stormwater monitoring locations that were reported, and to stormwater collected in construction fill trenches. Because the capture zone has never functioned properly and data continue to show contaminants outside of the capture zone, hydrologic control of mine contaminants from stormwater and elsewhere cannot be guaranteed. The mining company and its consultants have not been able to stop the spread of mine contaminants, and increased data collection and transparency is needed. Ecology should require stormwater monitoring and reporting, regardless of whether stormwater is ultimately sent to the treatment facility.
Understanding Contaminant Sources and Pathways: Unless the contaminant sources and pathways are understood, developing an effective remediation plan to bring the mine into compliance will be impossible. There are too few monitoring locations to adequately identify contaminant pathways. Water levels are monitored monthly in piezometers and could be converted to also monitor basic field parameters such as pH and specific conductance. This additional information would provide a good indication of groundwater quality. OHA recommends that Ecology require certain piezometers to be sampled for field water quality parameters. Additional monitoring wells should be established and additional dewatering wells should be installed in known faults to intercept mine contaminants that are currently escaping capture.
Critical water quality issues persist at the Buckhorn Mine, and there are actions that both the company as well as Ecology should take to move toward reducing contamination of surface and groundwater in the area of the mine.