EPA Superfund summer cleanup work announced

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Those in charge of cleaning up the Coeur d'Alene Basin from decades of mining expect to spend roughly $38 million on projects this summer season.

"It's going to be well spread out throughout the Coeur d'Alene Basin in terms of geography," said Ed Moreen, remedial project manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Coeur d'Alene office. "We'll continue to control contamination sources and also protect existing remedies."

The primary funding source for all the work is settlement dollars from Asarco and Hecla Mining Co., and hiring local contractors and workers remains a high priority for project organizers, Moreen said Tuesday.

Approximately 100 to 125 residential or commercial properties will be cleaned up. More than 17 miles of paved roads will be repaired or replaced in eight different upper basin communities.

Additionally, water collection and treatment projects will be designed.

There also will be construction at multiple mine-waste repositories, Moreen said.

Construction starts this fall on the new Lower Burke Canyon Repository, which will be in Wallace near Woodland Park. It should be ready to receive waste by next spring, and is designed to store 800,000 cubic yards of material.

The existing Big Creek Repository is getting full, and plans are in the works to build an add-on. The Coeur d'Alene Trust, which was set up through the settlement with Asarco, is acquiring two properties. The expansion will increase it from its current capacity of 600,000 cubic yards.

Bruce Schuld, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality project manager in the Kellogg office, said approximately 150 people will be hired for local road work and property cleanup.

He said yard remediation projects in the upper basin are nearly complete, Schuld said.

"We have kind of a focus of doing residential and commercial properties up there so that we can kind of complete and close out those communities," Schuld said. "We are doing a number of properties in the lower basin," which stretches from Cataldo downstream to Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Schuld said the road repair and replacement work is necessary because as the roads break down, contaminated material below is exposed.

"Most of them are in residential areas," Schuld said Tuesday.

The roads targeted have the least "residual service life in them," he said.

Road work started in Osburn earlier this month and road replacement should be completed in August.

Dan Meyer, senior program manager for the Coeur d'Alene Trust, said construction will resume on a mine waste consolidation area near the East Fork of Ninemile Creek.

The remote 20-acre site will first receive waste from the Interstate-Callahan Mine.

"There's about a total of 200,000 (cubic) yards there," Meyer said. "It's going to take us two years" to get mine waste from Interstate-Callahan to the waste consolidation area.

The trust is starting its investigation and design work to tackle the Success Mine site.

"The Success is the largest mine site in Ninemile (Canyon)," Meyer said. It has more than 400,000 cubic yards of mine dump material.

The four-year construction cleanup project at the Success Mine site will start when work at Interstate-Callahan is completed, he said.

"The East Fork of Ninemile Creek comes right by Success and right through the middle of the Interstate-Callahan," Meyer said.

"The zinc levels are very high in Ninemile," he said. The Ninemile flows south to Wallace. "It won't support aquatic life right now."

The Ninemile waste consolidation area will be able to hold 1 million cubic yards of material, Meyer said.

The trust also will be working in the area of Canyon Creek, he said.

Additionally, the EPA has completed the design for a riverbank and beach remediation pilot project at the Kahnderosa RV park. Construction is slated for the fall.

The project will reduce human and wildlife exposure by isolating and stabilizing the eroding riverbank. Native plants will be used to stabilize the shoreline. It's a stretch of approximately 300 feet.

"It's eroding really badly," Meyer said.

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