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Idaho Silver Valley Cleanup Moves into Another Year

Doug Nadvornick's full interview with Bill Adams and Terry Harwood.

The cleanup in “the box”, the 21-square mile Superfund site that once included the Bunker Hill mine and mill in Kellogg, Idaho, has been going for more than 30 years. And it’s not going to be finished anytime soon. But if you go to the Silver Valley today and compare it to what it looked like in, say 1982, it looks like two different places. The sky, at least on clear days, is blue instead of grayish-black. The hills overlooking the valley are forested again instead of bare. The rivers and creeks aren’t brown and the people aren’t breathing lead, at least to the extent that they once did. People come here to ride bikes, to ski, to play golf, camp and hike. There is still mining in the valley, though much less than before.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of the cleanup in “the box”, held a briefing for reporters to talk about the projects that are planned this year. They will continue to replace contaminated dirt in yards and vacant lots, to clean metals-laden dust out of buildings, to pave roads, to plan a new water treatment plant, to sample the water quality and to expand blood lead testing for children.

Between $20 million and $30 million will be spent on the cleanup in the Silver Valley this year. That comes from various pots of money. The EPA is joined in its work by the Army Corps of Engineers, Idaho state agencies and local governments.

After the briefing, we met with Bill Adams, who is the project manager for EPA, and Terry Harwood, who is the director of the Coeur d’Alene Basin Commission. He coordinates all of the work going on.

My first question was to Bill Adams about how the Silver Valley is a different place than when the cleanup began.