Preventing PR Spring Tar Sands Strip Mine Pollution
“With clear evidence showing that the area of the mine is connected to area seeps and springs, there’s simply no justification for DWQ to allow the mine to expand operations without appropriate oversight.”
– Rob Dubuc, Staff Attorney, Utah Office
PR Spring Mine Expansion in Utah Will Likely Pollute Area’s Water
U.S. Oil Sands is a company from Alberta, Canada that owns the PR Spring mine, a ridgetop tar sands strip mine located near the beautiful Book Cliffs in Uintah County, Utah. The company plans to expand the mine four-fold. Currently the Utah Division of Water Quality is allowing the PR Spring mine to proceed with ridgetop tar sand mining, processing and disposal in this area without pit liners or monitoring.
The Book Cliffs of eastern Utah, a biologically, geologically and recreationally rich area of Utah, are being targeted for commercial development of oil shale and tar sands, a fossil fuel development process that strip mines the land, destroys wildlife habitat, pollutes our air, leaves a legacy of toxic waste, accelerates climate change and contaminates water.
Recently completed hydrogeochemistry studies by the University of Utah have shown that natural springs are recharged from the area where the PR Spring strip mine will be expanded. In addition, analysis of process wastes from the mine show that organic compounds in those wastes will be thousands of times greater than levels regulated in drinking water. These tailings have the potential to contaminate springs in Main Canyon, an area renowned for wildlife and hunting and the water supply for a ranching operation. Measurements made by U.S. Oil Sands itself show that the leached concentration of diesel range organic compounds will be thousands of times greater than the maximum contaminant levels that are regulated in drinking water.
Western Resource Advocates Files Legal Challenge to Stop Expansion
Western Resource Advocates filed a legal challenge on behalf of Living Rivers against the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) for allowing the U.S. Oil Sands PR Spring mine to proceed with expanding their mining operation without further review. The potential impacts of this operation should be considered before expansion proceeds in order to protect water quality, wildlife, local ranches, and robust recreation.
On July 17 2015, the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining (DOGM), issued a permit decision requiring US Oil Sands PR Springs Mine expansion to establish a water monitoring program and compliance with EPA’s air quality regulations as conditions of the mine permit before the mine may process tar sands. On May 18, 2015, Western Resource Advocates, representing Living Rivers, had filed a protest of DOGM’s tentative decision to approve US Oil Sands’ expansion request without requiring water monitoring or compliance with air regulations. The Division of Oil Gas and Mining’s requiring US Oil Sands to devise a ground water monitoring program and comply with air quality regulations before the PR Spring tar sands mine undergoes a four-fold expansion is a victory for public health and conservation advocates. Western Resource Advocates applauds the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining for requiring ground water monitoring and air quality compliance before allowing tar sands mining to proceed. Wildlife, hunters, recreational users and the ranching operation that rely on these natural springs can all rest a little easier knowing that the company must show how they will protect this drinking water.
Western Resource Advocates looks forward to working with the Division to ensure that robust monitoring serves as an early detection system before mining proceeds. Significant action is needed by the mine to protect public health and the environment.
For more on WRA’s work to keep dirty fuels from polluting Utah’s air, water, communities and wildlife, visit here.