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Thursday, December 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Health

Heavy metal cleanup finishing

Machines operated by Piersol Construction scrape dirt from the Flora Road landing along the Spokane River on Thursday. (Jesse Tinsley)
Machines operated by Piersol Construction scrape dirt from the Flora Road landing along the Spokane River on Thursday. (Jesse Tinsley)

The Washington State Department of Ecology is wrapping up the last of its planned heavy metals cleanup projects along the Spokane River.

The projects, which started in 2006, are designed to remove lead, arsenic, zinc and other metals washed downstream from mining in North Idaho decades ago. Contaminated soil has been removed in some areas and beaches capped to prevent further contamination.

This week crews were working at the Centennial Trail access point on Flora Road. The site was already cleaned up in 2009, but high water in 2011 damaged the cap.

“We had too high of flows for the design,” said Mike Hibbler, DOE’s regional manager for the toxics cleanup program. “We redesigned it and we’re repairing it.”

Since the end of August, work has been completed at Myrtle Point and Islands Lagoon, both near Plantes Ferry Park. Rock was added at Myrtle Beach and the site was capped, Hibbler said.

“It should remain in place during the peak flow events,” he said. “That’s pretty much now a rock beach.”

Contaminated soil was removed at Islands Lagoon and the site was built back up. A boulder bulkhead was added. “That’s still a sand beach,” Hibbler said.

The work done at each site varies, Hibbler said. “Each site has its own needs, depending on the beach itself and how it’s going to look when it’s done,” he said.

After the work at Flora is done, crews will move to Barker Road, where they will be improving a beach on the north shore to the east of the bridge. It’s located next to a river access point right next to the bridge. Rock will be added and the beach will be capped, Hibbler said.

“We’re working with some community organizations that are going to do some planting,” said site management unit supervisor Ginny Darrell.

Trail users will have to deal with occasional brief closures of the Centennial Trail while the work continues.

Previous cleanups included Starr Road in 2006, the Island Complex and Murray Road beaches in 2007 and Harvard Road in 2008.

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