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Gop Women Move Against Superfund Group Rallies Politicians Against Epa’s Expanded Study Of Mining Contamination

Local Republican women are super mad over Superfund.

It’s leading to a war-room session with U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, officials from U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s office, the Kootenai County Commissioners and the mayors of Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls. The objective: stop the EPA from using the Superfund program to clean up mining contamination outside of the Kellogg area.

The Environmental Protection Agency is studying potential contamination from the Idaho-Montana border to the Long Lake area northwest of Spokane.

“Everyone is alarmed about this,” said Shirlee Wandrocke, of Kootenai County Republican Women Federated, the organization behind the session later this month. Left unchallenged, “they (EPA) will start forcing us to post signs that say ‘Don’t drink the water,’ and ‘Boat at your own risk.”’

“We want people to hear some of the problems and how to resolve them without harming our tourist season, which so many of us depend upon.”

EPA officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Kootenai County Commission chairman Dick Compton, who will be at the meeting, says compromise and cooperation suit the situation. “My impression is what we don’t need is to have the whole area declared (a) Superfund” site, Compton said.

“There are some hot spots in the river and upstream that need to be identified and cleaned up but nobody in their right mind would say (Lake Coeur d’Alene) needs to be dredged,” Compton said. He referred to locations along the Coeur d’Alene River where the banks erode, allowing contaminants to wash downstream.

The best option is for the local, state, and federal government, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the business community to settle on a plan to take care of those areas, Compton said.

Mike Tracy, spokesman for Craig, likes that local control angle.

There are two main issues, he said. The state needs to be in charge of cleanup and the EPA cannot be allowed to expand the 21-square-mile Superfund site at Bunker Hill.

The overwhelming majority of people who have contacted Craig’s office agree.

As grass-roots efforts aimed against the EPA proceed, Sens. Craig and Dirk Kempthorne will push to get Senate approval for the Superfund reauthorization bill. Kempthorne amended that bill last week to give the state the tools to have a local commission come up with a cleanup plan.

The furor over the EPA and mining pollution cleanup surfaced in late February. The agency announced it was going to start looking at where, besides the Bunker Hill site, lead and other toxic waste from a century of mining and smelting was causing problems.

Since much of that waste went into the Coeur d’Alene River, and was carried into Lake Coeur d’Alene as well as into the Spokane River, residents worry what the EPA study means for these downstream areas.

Because the agency can make that study under the Superfund law, the news touched off instant fury. Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Judy has made it a key issue, declaring “Lake Coeur d’Alene is not a Love Canal.”

The EPA, however, has emphasized it it not declaring the entire Coeur d’Alene Basin a Superfund site. Instead, the agency is “looking at where the contamination has gone,” said Misha Vakoc, an EPA spokeswoman.

That includes contamination from the defunct Bunker Hill mine and smelter and from mining upstream and downstream from Kellogg.

, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: MEETING SCHEDULED Kootenai County Republican Women Federated is sponsoring a meeting with elected officials to counter the Environmental Protection Ageny’s plans to investigate mining contamination throughout the Coeur d’Alene River basin. The cost is $14 per person. Reservations must be made by April 13 by calling 773-4500.

Cut in Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: MEETING SCHEDULED Kootenai County Republican Women Federated is sponsoring a meeting with elected officials to counter the Environmental Protection Ageny’s plans to investigate mining contamination throughout the Coeur d’Alene River basin. The cost is $14 per person. Reservations must be made by April 13 by calling 773-4500.

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