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EPA fines California miners $44,000 for illegal operations

Release Date: 8/21/2003
Contact Information: Laura Gentile, Press Office, 415/947-4227

SAN FRANCISCO - Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced two settlements totaling $44,000 for illegal mining operations that took place in northern San Diego county during 1998 and 1999, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The EPA cited Bruce Birch, Future Mountain Development Trust, and Al Julian for operating a sand and gravel mine without a federal permit, resulting in the discharge of pollutants into the San Luis Rey River. As part of the settlement, the parties are required to complete ongoing restoration and monitoring work involving the removal of invasive weeds, which will allow the river to recover over time through natural floodplain processes.

The illegal mining damaged approximately three acres of the river bottom, which resulted in increased erosion and degradation of the river's water quality. In addition, the operations harmed a local population of the endangered Southwestern Arroyo Toad. The illegal mining activity was referred to the EPA by the County of San Diego after public complaints in December 1999.

"This action lets everyone know we will continue to be vigilant in protecting vital Southern California wetland resources from illegal activities," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's Water Division for the Pacific Southwest. "We will bring all our regulatory resources to bear to ensure protection for the river and surrounding communities."

The Clean Water Act prohibits the placement of dredged or fill materials into wetlands, rivers, streams, and other waters of the United States without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.