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Upper Cd'A Basin cleanup cost: $1.28B

by Alison Smith
| June 19, 2010 9:00 PM

KELLOGG - The estimated cost of the environmental cleanup in the Upper Coeur d'Alene Basin was pegged at $1.28 billion and could last 50 to 90 years, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday during a public hearing.

"Some messes take longer to clean up than they did to make," said Terry Harwood, executive director of the Basin Environmental Project Commission.

EPA members outlined the preliminary plan before a crowd made up of miners, parents and other residents of Shoshone and Kootenai counties.

Superfund program manager Bill Adams said one of the first steps in the plan would be to construct a large pipeline, up to 36 inches wide, that would collect contaminated water from many mine sites and end up at the central treatment plant.

"The central treatment plant is really key in all this," said Adams.

Currently the water treatment plant handles 5,000 gallons per minute. As more water starts passing through it, it will be upgraded in stages to handle 33,000 gallon per minute.

During a slide show presentation Adams and other EPA representatives explained how the more than 300 contaminated sites would be prioritized.

Sites where human health would be affected will be dealt with first, said Harwood. Cost also goes into consideration.

Some sites don't look expensive to clean up at first, "but then you have to build a road to them and they become expensive," said Harwood.

About $480 million of the cost of the project will be covered by the trust from the Asarco settlement.

Audience members had several concerns about the impending expansion of the cleanup project.

One person wanted to know what the EPA's goal for blood lead levels were since the area has been down to national levels for several years now.

Harwood said that although most children in the Silver Valley are at acceptable levels, some are not.

"Where do you stop?" he said. "We need to finish the cleanup job so everyone is treated the same."

Another person said the valley is a naturally mineralized area and maybe higher levels of lead and other minerals found in testing shouldn't be worried about.

Many at the meeting were concerned the EPA isn't supporting the community.

Adams said the DEQ office in Kellogg has five local employees and the EPA spent almost $30 million in the valley during the yard program last year.

EPA reps on Thursday tried to assure residents they would work with property owners and future mining in the area would be possible.

"We do not want to put anyone out of business," Harwood said.

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