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Waste plan draws concern

Post Falls mayor worries about impact to waterways

POST FALLS – The mayor of Post Falls says concerns about the environment and public health should prevent 20 acres near the Coeur d’Alene River from becoming a dumping ground for soil contaminated with old mine waste.

The site, known as the East Mission Flats repository, lies west of Cataldo and is 3,000 feet from the river.

“I just have great concerns about placing toxic material beside a body of water, and in a wetland on top of that,” Mayor Clay Larkin said.

He recently expressed his concern in an e-mail to Terry Harwood, executive director of the Coeur d’Alene Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission.

Larkin maintains the waste dumping likely would contaminate the Coeur d’Alene River and other waters in Kootenai County.

“From what I can gather, it really doesn’t matter about all the concerns and objections, the project will go forward, even though there are multiple sites better suited,” Larkin wrote.

In protesting the site selection, Larkin has collaborated with the Silver Valley Community Resource Center, an activist group that tallied 2,000 petition signatures against East Mission Flats.

Harwood said concerns about the site are unfounded and based on misinformation. The Upper Coeur d’Alene River Basin already contains multiple repositories in a flood plain, and none has washed away in floods, he said.

“A fairly flat spot is needed to build these things, and the flat spots in the Coeur d’Alene Basin are usually in flood plains,” Harwood wrote in response to Larkin’s e-mail.

Two phases of construction remain in preparing the repository to receive contaminated soil. The work requires hauling in 4,000 cubic yards of clean soil as fill material, and building a bridge, off Interstate 90, to the site.

Dumping contaminated materials also is on hold for now because of an inspector general request, said Andy Mork of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. That request seeks a third-party finding that repository toxins will not seep underground. If the inspector general gives the go-ahead, dumping is scheduled to start around November, Mork said.

The repository, less than a mile from Cataldo, would hold about 416,000 cubic yards of soils contaminated with lead, arsenic and other metals collected from the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site. The metals are to be collected between Cataldo and the headwaters of the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River in Shoshone County.

The area became contaminated with waste from more than a century of mining in the Silver Valley.