The nice weather we’ve been having means work on the ground is resuming at one of the largest Superfund sites in the nation.
The EPA is trying to clear decades of mine pollution from Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene River Basin and the upper reaches of the Spokane River. But this summer, managers are using an environmental remedy you might not expect: pavement.
Managers on the Superfund site say they’ll spend about $8 million this year on new asphalt or concrete on stretches of north Idaho road. Road crews are scheduled to be deployed to Wallace, Kellogg and other small towns. Ultimately, officials hope to repair or replace roughly 150 miles of county roads and city streets in the cleanup area.
Bruce Schuld of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality helps oversee the work. He says the problem is that many of the roads were built on top of soil contaminated with lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic from the mines.
“That contaminated material comes up through the cracks, potholes, etc,” says Schuld. “And during particularly winter time, it runs off on the side of the road into people’s front yards and it’s being tracked around on people’s vehicles, bicycles, shoes and everything else.”
The EPA has been working since the ‘80s to clean up old mine waste in Idaho’s Silver Valley.
Managers have replaced the soil on more than 6,000 yards, parks, and public areas and are cleaning up old mining sites that continue to pollute surface and ground water.