Air Pollution Dogs Idaho Mining District

Jan 6, 2015

The State of Idaho - and people who live in the mine-rich Silver Valley east of Coeur d'Alene - are still struggling to fix pollution problems, even after decades of clean-up work. The EPA has designated air quality in the West Silver Valley as polluted from fine particles.

The area around Pinehurst, Smelterville and Kellogg has been labeled, in the language of the EPA, a moderate non attainment area.

The fine particles, spewed into the air by mining and smelting operations, are only about a 30th the diameter of a human hair. But EPA scientists say they're linked to serious health problems, including premature death for people battling heart and lung disease.

The non attainment designation means the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is under the gun to draw up and implement plans to cut the volume of fine particles. State officials must submit a plan by the fall of 2016, and then it'll have another five years after that to show compliance with the air quality standard.