The Hydrologic Monitoring Plan (HMP) describes the monitoring activities and schedules. It is supposed to contain known impacts including capture zone integrity, identified from information and data gathered in the first 5-year cycle of the permit.
OHA asserted that the Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) for water quality that was submitted by Kinross should not be approved because the current submission is not adequate in identifying or adapting to the water quality problems. In general, the submitted AMP fails to address the issues and was not adequately revised. The HMP submittal on the other hand, eliminates whole sections that are critical to the long-term protection and integrity of water quality in the area.
Adaptive Management Plan
It is obvious at first read that the July 2014 Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) for Water Quality submitted by Crown/Kinross for the Buckhorn Mine fails to provide an approvable update to the current plan. In fact, it fails to even address the effectiveness of the current monitoring procedures and does not consider the last 5 years of water quality data, as mandated by the NPDES permit.
Kinross has failed to take a serious introspective look at the past, current and ongoing water quality problems at the mine. The company rejected efforts to collaborate on the document and provided an unacceptable “dream plan” that continues the current state of affairs with no meaningful plan to identify and address water quality problems. Based on the poor quality of the submittal, OHA recommends that Ecology reject the document, take immediate enforcement action for failing to provide and approvable document, and provide clear direction about what an approvable AMP would contain.
If one were to consider the effectiveness of current monitoring procedures and the last five years of water quality data, the AMP would start with the premise that mine-related contaminants are and have been impacting ground and surface water quality. With years of monitoring data, there is enough information to confirm that the problem is not laboratory analysis. The current plan, which has not been adequately implemented, requires that Kinross identify the source of the contamination and develop a plan to remediate the problems. If Ecology and Kinross are serious about mitigating the water quality problems at the mine, a firm timeframe should be established for presenting the results of any analysis that has been undertaken and implementing additional mitigation measures as soon as possible. OHA feels strongly that an additional adaptive management action should be added to the AMP that would evaluate the effectiveness of any implemented mitigation measures. This type of an analysis would determine whether the selected mitigation measures are improving the water quality problems.
OHA recommends that two water quality coordination meetings be held each year, and that Kinross submit the year-end annual water quality monitoring reports three months after the end of the water year, or by January 1st, to give reviewers adequate time to analyze the data.
The Kinross “dream plan” for adaptive management proposes to continue using the same flawed approach to assess water quality impacts that has failed to produce water quality improvements over the past six years. The primary problem is failing to contain contaminants, and the only reliable indicator of the integrity of the capture zone is water quality monitoring data – not measured water levels or the results from the flawed groundwater model. Because of this reality, the AMP for water quality is the most critical document, aside from the NPDES permit, for protecting water quality in and around the Buckhorn Mine.
A clear example of the flawed adaptive management approach is Kinross’ method for evaluating the effects of stormwater seepage. The Kinross proposed AMP asks whether the shallow stormwater collection trenches are capturing mine impacted water instead of asking whether the trenches are effective in containing shallow stormwater impacted by mining activity. It has already been established that the trenches are collecting contaminated water. What we don’t know is whether the trenches are effective at containing shallow stormwater within the capture zone. The AMP should require that the effectiveness be evaluated and additional adaptive management actions be implemented if needed. OHA recommends that Ecology clarify what the right adaptive management questions are, and explain that any obfuscation is unacceptable.
OHA sent Ecology specific comments on the proposed AMP, mainly focused on water quality. We urge Ecology to reject the AMP submitted by Kinross, to take appropriate enforcement action, and to require an immediate replacement with a plan that includes specific actions to provide management direction so that all mining impacts are mitigated.
Hydrologic Monitoring Plan
Crown/Kinross also submitted a revised Hydrologic Monitoring Plan (HMP) when only an update was required. It significantly alters critical portions of the existing document, which are central to the long-term protection of the environment. The basic format and substance of the current HMP is sound, even though it does not include a description of water quality problems at the Buckhorn Mine. The updated HMP was required to include known impacts including capture zone integrity, identified through information gathered during the first NPDES cycle.
Kinross proposes to reduce monitoring that is needed to mitigate the long-term impacts of the mine. It should be clear to Ecology that since mine contaminants are impacting ground and surface water, more monitoring is needed – not less. OHA recommends that Ecology reject the July 2014 Kinross HMP submittal and provide clear guidance on what should be included in the document. To this end, OHA has submitted a summary of the issues we see with the July 2014 HMP proposed by Kinross.
The document should be updated so that each section in the revised HMP includes a description of known impacts, as required by the NPDES permit and as per Ecology’s direction.
The Kinross submittal removes critical check-and-balance aspects of the annual review of the HMP, such as discussion of the adequacy of the plan and mitigation, along with any modifications that may be required. In addition, some sections of the submitted plan seem to disregard the new NPDES permit, especially in terms of monitoring and reporting frequency. For example, stream flow, spring and seep flow, and groundwater elevations should be reported monthly, not only in annual reports.
Kinross has completely eliminated the section on reclamation, closure and post-closure monitoring (Section 4 in the current HMP). The revised HMP also changes the description of the closure and post-closure monitoring period. Ecology should make it clear that closure monitoring will continue until values reach baseline water quality (including NPDES limits), and that post-closure monitoring will continue until baseline water quality has been maintained for at least ten years. The Kinross submittal blurs the line between closure and post-closure and fails to fully describe the importance of post-closure monitoring activity.
OHA urges Ecology to reject the HMP submitted by Kinross, and to require an immediate replacement with a plan that considers comprehensive long-term restoration of water quality in the area.
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