If you don’t like dump trucks, stay out of Idaho’s Silver Valley this summer.
More than $20 million work of environmental cleanup work in the historic mining district this year will create about 400 jobs and untold numbers of truckloads full of dirt.
A cleanup of old mining sites in Nine Mile Canyon outside of Wallace will result in the movement of 150,000 cubic yards of contaminated dirt. Additional projects will resurface roads and put clean dirt over contaminated areas, all with the goal of preventing the spread of heavy metals in the nation’s second largest Superfund site.
“We’re getting a lot of work done,” said Bill Adams, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manager at a Tuesday briefing in Coeur d’Alene.
The work is being paid for out of a trust funded by Asarco LLC through the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement. EPA has been spending about $20 million annually on cleanup projects in the Coeur d’Alene basin for the past six years.
The trust money, which is invested, has grown from $482 million to $521 million despite the payouts, Adams said. The trust is expected to finance several more decades of cleanup work.
Asarco operated more than 20 mines in the Silver Valley, where minerals were discovered in the late 1800s.
Superfund cleanup has been a steady source of seasonal jobs for Shoshone County, where mining jobs are a fraction of what they used to be. Union workers at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, went on strike in mid-March after months of negotiations with Hecla Mining Co. failed to produce a new contract. The Lucky Friday is one of two mines still operating in the Silver Valley.
This summer, design and survey work also will get underway for a $48 million upgrade and expansion of a wastewater treatment plant near Kellogg. The plant will significantly remove the amount of zinc and cadmium flowing into the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.
AMEC Foster Wheeler Environmental & Infrastructure of Pennsylvania won the contract to design and build the plant. Construction will start next year, said Rod Zion, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Part of the work will involve building an 8,000 foot underground barrier along Interstate 90. The barrier, made out of soil and clay, will collect groundwater for treatment. The new treatment plant should go into operation by 2020, Zion said.
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