House Oks Bunker Cleanup Money
The state House of Representatives on Wednesday approved $2.26 million for cleanup of the contaminated Bunker Hill site.
The appropriation bill passed 59-5. It now goes to the state Senate, which is expected to approve the funding. Wednesday’s appropriation also included $300,000 for cleanup of the Coeur d’Alene River basin.
The state money for the Bunker Hill project frees up millions in federal aid for the mining waste cleanup.
“There have been wheels turning through emergency measures, but this really gets the program under way,” said Rep. Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene. “No more studies to study the studies. No more tests to test the tests. Just get the work done.”
“Were the state not to have approved this match, work would not have continued this summer,” said Earl Liverman, project manager for the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “Although work has been progressing to date, this now allows the full-scale, sitewide remediation to begin this summer.”
Specifically, Liverman said, that means demolition of the lead smelter and zinc plant at the 21-square-mile Superfund site. Workers also will excavate waste in a pond and demolish a fertilizer plant.
Since last fall, workers have demolished more than 50 buildings at the site, he said.
All told, the cleanup is expected to cost $200 million and take a decade to finish. The state will contribute $10.7 million. Mining companies and other industries have contributed $50 million, most of it to clean up mine waste leaching into streams upstream from the Superfund site.
Pischner said the cleanup has become secondary to repairing the area’s damaged reputation and economy.
“This isn’t a situation of people dying because of breathing the air or of kids dying because of (lead in) the yards they’re playing in. We’re beyond that,” he said. “In my mind, this whole thing is an economic issue.”
Rep. Tom Dorr, who also represents the district that includes the Silver Valley, said he has received a wave of calls and letters urging the Legislature to appropriate the money. But he said it wasn’t difficult finding lawmakers to support the funding.
“When I try to bend their ear about it, they say ‘it’s time to do this,”’ said Dorr, R-Post Falls.