EPA outlines next decade of work

To keep a public eye on the progress of mining waste cleanup, the Environmental Protection Agency has released an implementation plan this week outlining the next decade's worth of cleanup projects in the Upper Coeur d'Alene Basin.

Available for public comment through next month, the plan spells out the next 10 years of priority Superfund efforts slated for the region. That document maps out project details, agency cooperation with local jurisdictions, and details about funding and management.

"When we were issuing the Upper Basin ROD Amendment, what we kept hearing was, 'How are we going to engage the public?'" said Ed Moreen, remedial project manager with the EPA Coeur d'Alene Office. "This is how."

The plan covers major cleanup accomplishments targeted over the next 10 years.

Those include upgrading the Kellogg groundwater treatment plant, conducting high priority cleanup along the East Fork of Nine Mile Creek and constructing a drain to intercept contaminated groundwater near the central impoundment area in the box.

Work is also planned to control contamination in Canyon Creek and collect polluted water to run through the treatment plant.

As the Big Creek repository nears its fill of contaminated soil deposits, collected from ongoing cleanup of residential and commercial properties, there are also plans for constructing new Lower Burke Canyon and Osburn repositories.

The implementation plan isn't set in stone, Moreen emphasized. It will be open for public review annually, he said.

"We're making this a public document," he said. "This won't be a one-time basis."

The public interaction only goes so far, however. The EPA will not respond to public comment, Moreen said. The agency will review the input and tweak the draft as it deems appropriate.

"They will see our response by the changes to the plan," he said.

The plan can be viewed at go.usa.gov/igD. Copies can also be obtained from Rene Gilbert with the EPA, by calling 659-5237.

Comments must be submitted by Dec. 6. E-mail comments to cdabasin@epa.gov or mail to CDA Basin Team, EPA Region 10/1200 Sixth Avenue, Suite 900, ECL-113/Seattle, WA, 98101.

Meanwhile, work continues on cleanup projects under the new Interim ROD amendment, some of which mingle with continuing projects under the 2002 ROD.

Officials with various cleanup-related agencies summarized progress at a media meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Coeur d'Alene Best Western Inn.

This past year, the Department of Environmental Quality cleaned roughly 189 commercial and residential properties of waste still present from a century of Silver Valley mining activities, said Bruce Schuld, Kellogg Remediation manager.

Part of the ongoing yard cleanup that has addressed 6,000 properties so far, this year's efforts were primarily in the Upper Basin, Schuld said.

"We're looking at continuing the yard program for another three to four years," Schlud said. "We anticipate getting access to and cleaning another 600 properties."

The Coeur d'Alene Trust is prepping for contamination cleanup of historic mine sites along the Nine Mile Canyon, said Dan Meyer, senior program manager.

A waste consolidate area will soon be constructed to receive contaminated materials. Two bridges have also been built to expedite access to the sites.

Remedy protection projects are also underway, with three scheduled in Mullan and one in Osburn.

Terry Harwood, executive director of the Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission, pointed out that protections need to be in place to prevent cleaned properties from being scoured by rain or being recontaminated by polluted water spilled over it.

"Every time we get rains in the valley, it moves mine waste," Harwood said.

The Coeur d'Alene Trust was established to manage cleanup projects with funds from the Asarco settlement.

Harwood said agency officials will also soon meet with local highway jurisdictions on projects to address contaminated paved roads.

Next year will also see projects underway for capping and cleaning contaminated gravel roads, Harwood said.

One such project is already in the works in Kootenai County, he said, addressing South Doyle Road off Highway 3.

"What's great about this is it improves community infrastructure, while also providing remedy protection," Harwood said of infrastructure-related cleanup projects.

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