The public has an opportunity to comment on the proposed settlement after the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality said US Silver, Inc. violated the Clean Water Act at the Galena Mine by dumping pollutants into Creek Lake near the town of Wallace.

The Galena mine is located about three miles from Wallace and produces silver, copper and lead concentrates.

According to court documents, the Galena Mine complex discharges wastewater into Lake Creek and the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, which flows into Coeur d’Alene Lake.


The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality filed a complaint against US Silver in March over alleged violations in Shoshone County.

There are several allegations in the complaint and other court documents that including:

  • US Silver submitted samples and reports showing that between March 2021 and March 2023 it allegedly exceeded the daily maximum or monthly average limits for arsenic, lead, zinc, copper and pH by 40 times.
  • US Silver allegedly submitted reports that contained at least one invalid, unrepresentative or erroneous sampling information in 12 required monitoring reports over two years.
  • US Silver allegedly submitted several required documents, including a wastewater monitoring plan and a preliminary engineering report, months after both documents were due. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality allegedly failed to submit documents on time and is in violation of US Silver’s permit conditions.

DEQ: Mine expected to continue to exceed arsenic waste limits until water treatment facility is built

Court documents also show that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality believes US Silver will continue to exceed arsenic waste discharge limits until it can build a new water treatment plant at the mine.

“Effluent exceedances are expected to continue because defendant’s treatment system cannot reliably meet arsenic and lead limits,” the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s March complaint states.

Officials from both sides signed a consent decree, agreeing to a settlement in early May. As part of the settlement, US Silver agreed to waive all objections and defenses to the complaint.

The consent decree laid out a timetable for US Silver to come into compliance with arsenic restrictions by designing and building a new water treatment plant. The agreement also requires US Silver to provide accurate sampling data and reports on pollutant concentrations, update and submit a quality assurance plan, and comply with limits on discharges of other pollutants.

US Silver is required to meet arsenic limits by 2030 by designing, building and operating a new water treatment plant.

In addition to the action taken by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, the Idaho Conservation League sued US Silver in federal court for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, This is reported by Bloomberg Law. The Idaho Conservation League claims US Silver has committed more than 1,200 separate violations.

How to leave a public comment about alleged violations at the Galena mine in Idaho

The public comment period runs until June 16. Members of the public can review the complaint and consent decree online and submit comments through Idaho Department of Environmental Quality website.

Mary Ann Nelson, administrator of the surface and wastewater division of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, told the Idaho Capital Sun that the public comment period allows people to share what they think about the actions the department is taking. After the public comment period ends, the courts will make a final decision on the consent, Nelson said.

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“Whenever we take action that has an impact, whether it’s an impact on a municipality, an individual or an industry, we want to make sure the public is informed that we’re taking action,” Nelson said in a phone interview.

“It’s important that the public has an opportunity to be a part of the process,” Nelson added.

Reached for comment Tuesday, Boise-based US Silver attorney Kevin Beaton told the Sun that US Silver wants to respect the public comment process and wait until it is complete before discussing the complaint or settlement with the media.

As part of the court’s consent agreement, US Silver agreed to pay penalties of $222,320 for past and ongoing violations. The fines must be paid to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality within 90 days of the court’s entry of the consent decree. The money will go into Idaho’s general fund, Nelson said.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality filed the complaint after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently took over permitting and compliance for Idaho’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (the program is now called the Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System).

US Silver initially received a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows it to discharge pollutants subject to limitations and monitoring requirements outlined in the permit, court documents said. Alleged violations result from exceeding these limitations and other alleged violations of the terms included in this license.


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