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Idaho Conservation League Reopens Lawsuit Against Atlanta Gold Over Boise River Contamination

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- Pollutants settled in an Atlanta Gold water treatment pond in 2012. -  - JOHN ROBISON/IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
  • John Robison/Idaho Conservation League
  • Pollutants settled in an Atlanta Gold water treatment pond in 2012.
The Idaho Conservation League and Northwest Environmental Defense Center have filed to reopen their lawsuit against Atlanta Gold Corporation over contamination at the headwaters of the Boise River.

"You've got to follow through," said John Robison, public lands director for the Idaho Conservation League. "It's public health and in the public interest."

The filing, announced Thursday, alleges the mining company has failed to follow a payment plan for a $2 million penalty to the U.S. Treasury after a 2012 U.S. District Court of Idaho ruling that Atlanta Gold discharged arsenic and iron into the Boise River in quantities that violated its Clean Water Act permit.

ICL and NEDC are asking the court to hold Atlanta Gold in contempt of court; impose additional financial penalties for failing to abide by the court's decision; and force it to develop and implement new measures to reduce its activities' impacts on the Boise River, thus bringing it into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

"There' a role the public has to [play to] make businesses pay their share and act like good neighbors," Robison said.

The mining company admitted in 2014 that iron and arsenic from its operations had flowed into the Boise River after runoff entered Montezuma Creek—a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Boise River. The Boise River provides approximately 30 percent of Boise's drinking water.

Since the 2012 ruling, Atlanta Gold has monitored and documented discharge levels at its operations near the town of Atlanta. According to its own reports, it has discharged iron and arsenic in levels exceeding its permit 497 times. In today's filing, the plaintiffs are asking the judge to order Atlanta Gold to pay $1,000 per violation per day—$497,000 total—in addition to other penalties.

The filings also recommend the court direct the company to bring discharge levels into compliance by July 1, 2017, and impose a deadline for the construction of treatment facilities dating back to the 2012 court decision. Robison said Atlanta Gold has an obligation to abide by the 2012 decision and maintain compliance with its Clean Water Act permit.

"We've been exceedingly patient, here," Robison said. "But we're calling foul. This is something any responsible company should be able to do."