Galena Mine Clean Water Act Enforcement
March 30, 2023 — Representing the Idaho Conservation League (ICL), Advocates for the West filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) citizen enforcement suit against mining company U.S. Silver for unlawful discharges of arsenic, lead, and other pollutants at the Galena Complex Mine in north Idaho. The pollution into the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River and Lake Creek, one of its tributaries, is in excess of limits set in U.S. Silver’s CWA permit.
The South Fork Coeur d’Alene flows west from its headwaters near the Idaho-Montana border before joining with the North Fork to form the Coeur d’Alene River. From there, the river flows into scenic Lake Coeur d’Alene, a popular recreation site enjoyed by thousands of boaters, anglers, birdwatchers, and other outdoor enthusiasts each year.
Cutthroat trout, whitefish, and bull trout are native to the South Fork Coeur d’Alene and Lake Creek, which also provide habitat for numerous other aquatic species. However, decades of ongoing mining pollution in the area has led to a decline in the abundance of fish.
U.S. Silver has a history of repeated water pollution violations at the Galena Complex Mine. In 2018, Advocates for the West reached a settlement agreement on behalf of ICL over CWA violations U.S. Silver committed in 2016 and 2017. After a period of better performance, U.S. Silver committed 1,253 new CWA violations from January 2022 through February 2023, as alleged in our complaint, and these violations are likely to continue.