Idaho's Environmental Disaster

Just as a Superfund cleanup ended, the true extent of mining's legacy in northern Idaho is revealed -- 1,500 miles of the Coeur d'Alene River basin is contaminated.

July 17, 2000, 11:30 AM PDT

By Chris Steins @urbaninsight

In 1982, the Environmental Protection Agency declared 21 square miles around northern Idaho's old Bunker Hill lead smelter the nation's second-largest Superfund site. The EPA ha since spent $200 million digging up contaminated lawns, demolishing the smelter site and cleaning up the community. Just as the EPA was finishing its work, they discover that sediments contaminated with lead, cadmium, zinc and arsenic have spread far outside the original Superfund site. The contaminants have polluted up to 1,500 square miles of the Coeur d'Alene River basin, from the Montana border to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. The damage dwarfs previous cleanups attempted by the EPA. Adding insult to injury, the US Government is to blame for original mining pollution. Are there lessons here for California?

Thanks to Chris Steins

Monday, July 17, 2000 in The Los Angeles Times


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