Feds outline Silver Valley cleanup in N. Idaho

November 12, 2012 11:12 a.m. - Updated: 1:27 p.m.

COEUR D’ALENE — The federal government has released its implementation plan for the first 10 years of a massive cleanup of a century’s worth of mining pollution in Idaho’s Silver Valley.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this week released for public comment the plan that identifies priority work over the next decade to clean up arsenic, lead and other heavy metals pollutants in the valley in northern Idaho.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports the plan includes upgrading the Kellogg groundwater treatment plant and cleaning up the East Fork of Nine Mile Creek.

The Coeur d’Alene River Basin is one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites, with heavy metals poisoning land, streams, wildlife and humans. The wastes washed into waterways and moved downstream, some extending into the state of Washington.

The EPA released its interim Record of Decision Amendment in August. The recently released information offers additional information.

“When we were issuing the Upper Basin ROD Amendment, what we kept hearing was, ‘How are we going to engage the public?”’ said Ed Moreen, remedial project manager with the EPA Coeur d’Alene Office. “This is how.”

The implementation plan could go through revisions, he said.

“We’re making this a public document,” Moreen said. “This won’t be a one-time basis.”

Last week, officials outlined work completed in the past year on cleanup efforts.

Bruce Schuld, Kellogg Remediation manager, said about 189 commercial and residential properties were cleaned of waste that accumulated through mining activities. Most of those properties were in the upper basin area and are among some 6,000 properties cleaned in the region so far, he said.

“We’re looking at continuing the yard program for another three to four years,” Schuld said. “We anticipate getting access to and cleaning another 600 properties.”

Terry Harwood, executive director of the Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission, said work must also be done to protect cleaned properties from becoming contaminated again.

“Every time we get rains in the valley, it moves mine waste,” Harwood said.

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