[Note: The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public hearing on the Rosemont Aquifer Protection Permit on Thursday, January 5 at 5:00 PM at Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega]
In 2009, Rosemont Copper submitted an Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) application to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) addressing nine specific “discharging” facilities related to the proposed Rosemont copper mine. [DEQ “Fact” Sheet]
It is interesting that DEQ released its public notice that it is proposing to approve this permit during the Christmas/New Years holiday season. One wonders if DEQ is really interested in receiving meaningful public input on this important matter. Also, it is not clear what the rush is. The public notice from DEQ indicates that the APP may have to be amended pending the outcome of the Forest Service’s NEPA process for the proposed Rosemont Mine.
When you examine the permit itself, it is pretty remarkable in how bold Rosemont is in its efforts to get its mine permitted at the expense of southern Arizona’s future. This permit does not set discharge limits of pollutants from the covered Rosemont facilities. Rather, it just requires monitoring and then the applicant (Rosemont) recommends discharge limits for these pollutants. In other words, this permit could allow Rosemont to contaminate our drinking water with potentially harmful contaminents before ROSEMONT recommends a discharge limit.
Why wait to set discharge limits? In Arizona, copper mining is a mature industry whose environmental impacts are well known. Waiting needlessly compromises our water supplies for future generations. Moreover, the Rosemont permit is inconsistent with APP’s for other mines in Arizona.
Rosemont likes to boast about its relatively small economic contribution to the region. Southern Arizona’s regional economic future directly depends on the availability of drinking water. Rosemont’s slight economic contribution will be just a drop in the bucket when you consider the economic devastation and lost jobs that will occur if it is allowed to contaminate the region’s drinking water.
This permit is further indication that Rosemont’s promises about environmental sustainability are nothing more than PR ploys.
Below is a listing of contaminants pulled right out of the APP that Rosemont would be allowed to discharge and potentially contaminate southern Arizona’s groundwater and their potential health impacts.
- Nitrate: Lack of breath and potentially fatal “blue baby syndrome” in infants (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/nitrate.cfm)
- Fluoride: Increased likelihood of bone fractures in adults and tooth damage in children. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/fluoride.cfm)
- Antimony: Gastrointestinal disorders; decreased longevity; cardiovascular problems; and altered blood levels of glucose and cholesterol. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Antimony Fact Sheet.)
- Arsenic: Cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, nasal passages, liver and prostate. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/arsenic/index.cfm)
- Beryllium: Intestinal lesions. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/beryllium.cfm)
- Barium: Increased blood pressure. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/basicinformation_barium.cfm)
- Cadmium: Kidney damage. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/cadmium.cfm)
- Chromium: allergic dermatitis; potentially carcinogenic. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/chromium.cfm)
- Lead: Delayed physical or mental development in children; attention deficits and learning disabilities in children; kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/index.cfm)
- Mercury: Kidney damage. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/mercury.cfm)
- Nickel: Decreased body weight; heart and liver damage; dermatitis. (Source: www.epa.gov/ogwdw/pdfs/factsheets/ioc/tech/nickel.pdf)
- Selenium: Hair or fingernail losses; numbness in fingers or toes; problems with circulation. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/selenium.cfm)
- Thallium: Hair loss; changes in blood chemistry; kidneys, intestines, or liver problems. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/thallium.cfm)
- Gross Alpha Particle Activity (pCi/L): Carcinogenic. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/radionuclides.cfm)
- Radium 226+Radium 228 (pCi/L): Carcinogenic. (Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/radionuclides.cfm)