Water Issues

Pollution of water is very common. Water is divided into surface water and groundwater with separate guidelines for each. Each state has its own Department of Environmental Quality that operates under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The rules are more stringent for surface water because of fish and other water life. However, if it is surface water, the EPA will get involved. Each state has some type of "discharge permit" or "aquifer protection permi.t" Unfortunately, these permits do not prohibit industrial waste entering public groundwater, they specify the levels that any industry, including mining, can pollute water. The Federal EPA has mandated levels for any metal or chemical that has been shown to be carcionogenic. These metals and their "allowed levels" are posted on the EPA Website for Safewater.

There are three sources of pollants of water:

1)  Unlined tailing imoundment.
2)  Leach pads using sulfuric acid for copper leaching and cyanide for gold leaching.
3)  Spills in the leach area due to overflows of leach solution holding ponds, breaks in pipes, and malfunction of equipment.
4)  Waste dumps and sewage facilities
5)  Pit lakes that form after the mine is closed.

Data you will need to collect and organize

1)  Original water quality before pollution: Ambient Levels of pH, sulfate, hardness, Total Dissolved Solids, heavy metals, radioactive chemicals, and nitrates of water before pollution

2)  Current water quality: Pollutant Levels for pH, sulfate, hardness, Total Dissolved Solids, heavy metals, radioactive materials, and nitrates of surrounding water.

3)  Composition of Tailings Impoundments that are polluting the water

Fallacy of the Environmental Impact Statements: Predicting Water Quality Problems at Hard Rock Mines: A Failure of Science, Oversight and Good Practice

The Report reveals:

1) 100 percent of mines predicted compliance with water quality standards before operations began (assuming pre-operations water quality was in compliance).

2) 76 percent of mines studied in detail exceeded water quality standards due to mining activity.

3) Mitigation measures predicted to prevent water quality exceedances failed at 64 percent of the mines studied in detail.