The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is investigating reports of an illegal waste dump near Chilco, Idaho, that might pose a threat to the region’s drinking water.
The agency was tipped off Tuesday when it received sworn statements from two truck drivers who claim they hauled dozens of dump-truck loads of suspected toxic materials to the site in February 2006. The drivers claim the material included 55-gallon drums of a dark, oily substance that was later buried at the site.
The suspected dump is about 10 miles north of Hayden at 1034 Chilco Road. It’s believed to be atop the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to 500,000 people across the region.
An inspector with the Department of Environmental Quality said it’s too early to tell if the claims are valid. Marc Kalbaugh said he and another state official briefly surveyed the site Tuesday, accessing a portion of the land through a power company easement. Construction debris was seen scattered on the ground, and there were patches of ground where vegetation was not growing. But no soil samples were taken to determine if anything dangerous is buried.
“This is of great concern to us,” Kalbaugh said, adding that the investigation will be “ramped up” today.
The landowner, Wayne Galland, insisted nothing dirty was buried on his property. “There ain’t nothing like that around here. … There’s never no toxic waste hauled to my property,” Galland said. “I’ve hauled in lots of dirt. None of it’s contaminated.”
Galland said he first learned of the allegations Wednesday afternoon when he was contacted by the newspaper. He said the state was “welcome” to take a closer look at his land. Galland also said the claims were likely fueled by a long-standing financial dispute he has with one of the truck drivers, John Dean, of Coeur d’Alene. Dean recently lost a court battle with Galland and was ordered to pay him $4,570.
“He’s a bad apple,” Galland said of Dean.
Dean, who has a similar opinion of Galland, said he was simply trying to do what’s right by alerting officials. “It’s there,” Dean said of the waste. “I hauled some of it there and dumped it there.”
Specifically, Dean claims he hauled 15 loads to Galland’s property. He says the material came from an old truck stop on the corner of Seltice Way and Huetter Road in Post Falls. Dean was working for Galland on the project, as were several other truck drivers, according to an affidavit signed by Dean and provided to the DEQ.
Dean estimated at least 80 loads were hauled to the site during the course of the project. The loads mainly consisted of sand and dirt, but also included old auto parts, logging equipment, chains and old 55-gallon barrels of waste. The barrels were crushed before being loaded into the trucks, Dean said.
A sworn affidavit from another truck driver claims the drums contained what appeared to be “old motor oil, diesel or sludge. Some was very runny like solvent and some was rock hard like charcoal.” The truck driver’s statement was also given to the DEQ.
After the barrels were crushed, the oil-soaked dirt and sand was hauled and dumped at the site, according to the drivers.
The statements were turned over to the DEQ by Erin Jenkins, a private investigator from Hayden who represents Dean. Jenkins said he was obligated by law to turn over evidence of a suspected crime.
Numerous large piles of bare dirt were spotted at the property Wednesday, as were several aging mobile homes, assorted used tires, three snowmobiles, a llama and a boat that teetered atop a scrap heap.
Kalbaugh, the inspector for the DEQ, said permits are required to store construction debris or other large piles of solid waste. A preliminary search does not show that Galland has a permit, Kalbaugh said, but the investigation could take several weeks.