The state is investigating operations at the Skagway Ore Terminal after discovering the company operating the facility didn’t have the proper permits to dispose of contaminated water used there.
The state Department of Environment Conservation, or DEC, says there is no record of a permit on file for discharging water at the Skagway Ore Terminal. But inspectors in March discovered a hose at the terminal and water running into storm water drains. DEC says storm water, gray water and water used to wash ore-hauling equipment is being disposed of without a permit and without treatment.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA owns the ore terminal. That state agency works to attract Canadian mining companies to use the facility. Currently, there is only one company using the terminal – Yukon’s Capstone Mining. The company trucks the ore concentrated to Skagway, stores it in the terminal and then transfers it onto ships. Last year Capstone exported just over 60,000 dry metric tons of copper concentration through the terminal, or about $186 million dollars’ worth, according to the state. Capstone employs a Skagway company called Mineral Services to operate the ore terminal with approval from AIDEA.
Mineral Services, owned by Dave Hunz, is cited in the violations. Hunz says they are working to address the violations. AIDEA spokesperson Kasten Rodvik says the agency will review all plans before they are submitted to DEC. He also says that the hose noted by DEC inspectors has already been removed.
Mike Solter is the compliance program manager with the Division of Water at DEC. He says this first notice of violation is considered an informal enforcement action. He says the department lays out the violations and then asks the company to respond with information and a plan to address the issues. If the company doesn’t respond or address the violations, the DEC can take other steps including civil or criminal charges.
DEC is requiring Mineral Services to address in the violations in several ways including redirecting the water to an upland area and developing a disposal plan, applying for permits to discharge the water, submit a waste disposal plan for the sludge from the equipment wash area and submit engineering plans for a wastewater system. DEC is also asking for an explanation of the alleged discharge of water from where ore hauling trucks are washed off.
DEC says the water issue violates state environmental rules. But it also violates a 1989 agreement that was supposed to protect against future contamination at the site. The facility is currently listed as a contaminated site because of lead contamination from operations in past decades. The city is planning a several million dollar cleanup effort at the ore basin as part of the Gateway port expansion project.