Rosemont Copper ground water public meeting

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- For the past couple of months both supporters and opponents of the proposed Rosemont Copper mine have poured into public meetings to give input on the mine's overall environmental impact.

Thursday night's meeting at Palo Verde High School was a little different though, focusing specifically on the potential impact on ground water.

"My concern was that it seems the process is kind of backwards," said Elsie Wattson Lamb.

Elsie Wattson Lamb has never been to a Rosemont public hearing.  But something about Thursday night's topic caught her attention.

"The water issue is absolutely critical," Lamb said.

Elsie and dozens of others are upset with Rosemont's plan to get a ground-water discharge permit.

It's required by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for any facility that might discharge materials into ground water.

Elsie's concern is that it would allow Rosemont to discharge for two years before determining what levels of dumping are okay.

"That's something you cannot take back.  Once you dig a big hole in the ground there is not such a thing as restoration," Lamb said.

But Rosemont says the two years are standard and the whole point of the permit is to make sure the water stays protected.  Tucsonan Rebecca Spann agrees.

"These people are engineers and they understand chemicals," Spann said.

Rebecca believes those engineers have ways to clean up the water, even if it were to get contaminated.

Right now she says what's more important are the jobs Rosemont will bring.

"The storefronts on Broadway and 22nd Street, its just vacant, vacant, vacant, available, available.  People are leaving this town," said Spann.

But Elsie says the possibility of contamination is what will force people to leave.   Before a permit is issued, she wants to see a few more standards set in the process.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has been reviewing Rosemont's permit application since 2009.

It needs to get through this public comment period, which ends February 3, then the DEQ can move forward in issuing the permit.