Clean Water Act Mining Waste Loophole

Clean Water Act Mining Waste Loophole

Lower Slate Lake in Alaska, before the Kensington Gold Mine’s waste dumping and after. (Photo Credits: Before: Irene Alexakos. After: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.)

In 2002, President George W. Bush created a loophole in the Clean Water Act allowing mining companies to dump toxic mining waste into American water bodies.  The new definition of “fill material” allows mine tailings to be dumped directly into waterways, bypassing strict pollution rules and endangering the health of those who use the waters for drinking, fishing, and swimming.  This is happening in Alaska.  The Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation’s Kensington gold mine is allowed to dump 200,000 gallons of wastewater slurry per day into Lower Slate Lake, 50 miles from Juneau.  EPA has enabled other mines to escape pollution rules by designating streams and wetlands to be “waste treatment systems,” exempt from the Clean Water Act.

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