Federal officials are poised to begin more clean-up of mining contamination in Northern Idaho this summer. The US Environmental Protection Agency has a budget of $35 million for clean up this summer of heavy metals in areas impacted by a century of mining.
The money comes from a settlement with mining companies that is now in a trust totaling $530 million.
EPA Coeur d'Alene Basin team leader Bill Adams says one focus of the clean up this year will be roadways in the smaller communities of the Silver Valley.
Adams: "We see there’s contaminated materials, lead in particular that has come up through the roads that have broken down, and so what we are doing is providing funding to the local jurisdictions so they can repair and replace these roads, especially in the areas where there can be exposure to these mining related materials."
Adams says EPA is also evaluating what type of clean-up will be needed in 18 thousand acres in the lower Coeur d'Alene basin, known as the “Chain Lakes “ area.
Adams: “From the river itself, the river corridor, the banks of the river overflowing into the lakes and wetlands, all of those areas have been contaminated form a long mining history ,and the fact that area floods essentially every year.”
Andy Helkey of the Panhandle Health District says because of that contamination, they urge folks to use common sense when recreating in waterways in the Silver Valley or Lower Basin:
Helkey: “The way to protect yourself is good hygiene, washing your hands, if you are eating, you know, eat up off the ground, if you are recreating along those beaches , try to leave as much of that dirt and soil there and not take it home with you."
When the clean-up Record of Decision was inked in 2012, it outlined a process that was expected to take about 30 years.