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Arizona mining company ordered to pay $5 million for arsenic leak

(Pexels/Vlad Chețan)

PHOENIX — An Arizona mining company has been ordered to pay two separate payments totaling more than $5 million after an arsenic leak went unfixed for years.

Hillside Mine near Bagdad owes $2,375,211.74 in restitution for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s assessment and remediation of environmental damage to Boulder Creek in Yavapai County, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a press release Tuesday.

The latest decision comes after the lead and gold mine owner had already been convicted of three felony violations in 2018 by the Arizona Pollution Discharge Elimination System and ordered to pay fines and surcharges totaling $2.745 million.

“As someone who grew up here in Arizona, I take protecting our natural resources very seriously,” Brnovich said in the release. “This company knowingly dumped toxins into our water, out of complete disregard to the law.

“By working together with ADEQ, we were able to stop the contamination and also hold Hillside Mine accountable.”

The arsenic leak dates back to 2013 when ADEQ discovered that the mine was the source of illegal discharge of arsenic-contaminated water into Boulder Creek at a rate of five gallons per minute or about 2.6 million gallons per year, the release said.

The mine owner signed three compliance by consent orders between 2014 and 2015 to remedy the leak and apply for appropriate environmental permits, but never submitted a plan. The mine continued to leak arsenic into Boulder Creek.

The case was then submitted for prosecution before the company was indicted in August of 2017, the release said.

“To support ADEQ’s mission of protecting and enhancing public health and the environment, ADEQ works in good faith with the regulated community to maintain compliance and work cooperatively to resolve issues,” ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera said in the release. “ADEQ believes this cooperative approach is best to achieve efficient and swift resolution.

“However, when a facility consistently fails to cooperate, as was the case for Hillside Mine, ADEQ will engage in formal enforcement with the Attorney General’s Office to ensure public health and the environment are protected and that facilities are held accountable.”

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