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Regional News

Coeur d'Alene Basin cleanup to expand to lower basin

CDA Basin map
Courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency
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As the cleanup of the Silver Valley's Upper Basin nears its completion, attention is turning to the lower basin.

The EPA is deciding on a new site where it will build a new soil repository.

Federal environmental officials plan to build a new repository for contaminated soil in the lower Coeur d’Alene Basin. It’s a signal that the cleanup of mining waste in the Silver Valley is moving downstream toward Lake Coeur d’Alene.

For more than 30 years, the cleanup of the Bunker Hill Superfund site has focused on the towns and hills in and around Kellogg, Idaho. Contaminated materials are trucked to repositories in the upper basin.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is expanding the clean up to the remaining pollution in the flats downstream, says the agency’s remedial project manager, Patrick Hickey.

“Even today the Coeur d’Alene River delivers about 200 tons of lead to Lake Coeur d’Alene every year. We estimate about 70% of the lead comes from the river bed and about 15% from the river banks,” he said.

Hickey says the plans are to dredge sections of the Coeur d’Alene River and remove soil from the banks. The project will start in an area between Cataldo Mission and Rose Lake. The agency is looking to build a nearby storage facility where it can truck that material.

It has two sites in mind. One is called the Dredge Road property. It’s about two miles west of Cataldo, along the Dudley Reach of the Coeur d’Alene River on the northside of Interstate 90. It’s an area within a larger property where dredged material was dumped during the mid-20th century, so it already contains hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated materials. The property is owned by the Coeur d’Alene Basin Trust.

The second parcel is also owned by the Trust. It’s called the South River Road site and was a former single homeowner-owned property with 160 acres of forest and two large grassy fields that were farmed.

The agency will choose between those two and and is taking public comment on those until April 8.

It plans a virtual briefing session for the public on March 30.

Zoom Link: https://usepa.zoomgov.com/j/1601777989; Meeting ID: 160 177 7989.

The EPA plans to announce its choice at the May 18 meeting of the Coeur d’Alene Basin Commission.