With jet boat races headed to the Coeur d’Alene River in May, the Panhandle Health District is working on a plan to keep spectators safe from heavy metals.
“We want people to be aware of environmental contamination in the area and protect their health while they’re watching the race,” said Andy Helkey, the health district’s manager for lead health intervention.
Thousands of people are expected for the 2016 USA World Champion Jet Boat Race, which includes 30 miles of the lower Coeur d’Alene River between Harrison and Cataldo, Idaho. The area is polluted with historic mining waste that washed down from Idaho’s Silver Valley.
Helkey will work with race organizers to get information to spectators about avoiding polluted beaches and mudflats, and the importance of hand-washing before eating. Spectators are required to stay 50 feet back from the shoreline, which will help reduce exposure, he said.
Helkey also will give a health and safety talk to the race participants.
About 35 competitors are expected for the races, which take place during the week leading up to Memorial Day. Other race venues include portions of the St. Joe, Grand Ronde and Snake rivers.
The St. Maries Chamber of Commerce has applied for a Kootenai County marine permit for the Coeur d’Alene River portion of the race. Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said he intends to issue the permit by the April 15 deadline.
Jet boats have a small wake, so the race isn’t expected to stir up pollution. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to monitor water quality before and after the event.
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