Federal officials plan to spend $38 million in North Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene River Basin this summer cleaning up toxic pollution left from a century’s worth of mining in the region.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said up to 125 residential and commercial properties will be cleaned up, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.
Ed Moreen, remedial project manager with the EPA’s Coeur d’Alene office, said that more than 17 miles of paved roads in eight upper basin communities will be repaired or replaced.
Work also will include water treatment projects and the construction of multiple mine-waste repositories.
“It’s going to be well spread out throughout the Coeur d’Alene Basin in terms of geography,” Moreen said. “We’ll continue to control contamination sources and also protect existing remedies.”
The Coeur d’Alene River Basin is one of the nation’s larger Superfund sites, with heavy metals poisoning land, streams, wildlife and humans. The wastes washed into waterways and moved downstream, some extending into Washington state.
Most of the money for work this year is being paid for with settlement dollars from Asarco and Hecla Mining Co.
Work on one of the new waste repositories, Moreen said, will start this fall on the Lower Burke Canyon Repository in Wallace. The repository is designed to store 800,000 cubic yards of material and should be ready by spring 2015.
Meanwhile, the existing Big Creek Repository is getting full, so two new properties are being acquired to expand its current capacity of 600,000 cubic yards.
Bruce Schuld, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality project manager in Kellogg, said about 150 workers will be hired for road work and property cleanup.
“We have kind of a focus of doing residential and commercial properties up there so that we can kind of complete and close out those communities,” said Schuld, noting some other properties also are being cleaned in the lower basin from Cataldo downstream to Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Construction is planned on a mine waste consolidation area on a remote 20-acre site near the East Fork of Ninemile Creek, said Dan Meyer, senior program manager for the Coeur d’Alene Trust. That area will receive waste from the Interstate-Callahan Mine.
“There’s about a total of 200,000 (cubic) yards there,” Meyer said. “It’s going to take us two years” to move it to the waste area.
Another project is a remediation pilot project at the Kahnderosa RV park planned to start this fall. Officials say stabilizing the eroding riverbank will reduce human and wildlife contact with harmful pollutants.