Nine barrels filled with hazardous materials have been discovered in the Fernan area, U.S. Forest Service officials said Tuesday.
The barrels were illegally dumped on Idaho Panhandle National Forest land. They contain a variety of potentially toxic substances, including cyanide, said officials with the Division of Environmental Quality.
“What appears to be in there is a huge mix of materials,” said John Sutherland, remediation supervisor for the DEQ. “Some have liquids in them, some have solids in them. It was just really weird stuff.”
Forest Service officials found the barrels on Jan. 25 after an anonymous tip.
Some of the barrels contain a clear liquid, some a yellowish liquid while others contain a solid substance that resembles kitty litter, said John Neirinckx, operation engineer with the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. One is leaking.
The barrels have been roped and fenced off and posted with signs warning of danger. Forest and DEQ officials urge people to stay far away from the containers.
Samples of the substances were sent to a state lab in Boise for tests.
Preliminary results were returned to the DEQ on Tuesday. Final results are expected today.
Solvents such as methylene chloride, trichloroethylene and trichloroethane fill one of the barrels Sutherland said.
“You don’t want to drink it and you don’t want to breathe it,” he said, explaining that exposure to the substances may cause cancer.
He said four of the barrels also contain high levels of cyanide. Tests also showed chromium, zinc and copper.
Jerry Moore, criminal investigator for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is investigating the dumping.
Sutherland said the wastes contained in the barrels appear as though they could have come from a metal plating operation.
Neirinckx estimates it could cost up to $900 a barrel to clean up the dumped waste.