The Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site is located in Northern Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene River Basin. It was placed on the National Priorities list in 1983. The Coeur d'Alene Basin is one of the largest areas of historic mining in the world. Since the late 1880s, mining activities in the Upper Coeur d'Alene Basin contributed an estimated 100 million tons of mine waste to the river system. Many Basin communities were built on mine wastes. Until as late as 1968, tailings were deposited directly into the river. Over time, these wastes have spread throughout more than 160 miles of the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane Rivers, lakes, and floodplains.
Young children continue to be exposed to unsafe lead levels in residential and recreational area soils. Throughout the Basin, about 20 miles of streams are unable to sustain a reproducing fish population, and about 10 miles of tributaries have virtually no aquatic life. Lead poisoning is responsible for many waterfowl deaths each year. More than 15,000 acres of wildlife habitat contain sediments and soils which are acutely toxic to waterfowl. Twenty-one of the 24 species of birds evaluated are at risk from the elevated metals.
This site covers a large geographic area, and is divided into areas for manageable cleanup. One such area is known as “the Box” – a 21-square-mile area surrounding the historic smelter area. The Box includes the Shoshone County cities of Kellogg, Wardner, Smelterville, and Pinehurst. Residential, community and smelter area cleanups have been ongoing since the 1980s. A significant portion of these cleanups have been completed. For example, in 1998, residential cleanup in the City of Smelterville was certified complete by the EPA, the State, and the mining companies conducting residential cleanup. In 2004, the City of North Kellogg was certified complete.
Contaminants from mining operations in the Silver Valley spread harmful levels of heavy metals down the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River and into the flood plains. The part of the site outside of the Box where mining contamination is being addressed is called “the Basin.” A plan for cleaning up residential and recreational areas in the Basin was developed in coordination with community members; federal, state, and tribal governments; and local entities. The common goals are reducing heavy metals, improving fisheries, reducing downstream migration of contaminated sediments, and providing safe feeding habitat for waterfowl.
EPA has been working with Federal, State, and Tribal partners to protect people and wildlife from harmful exposures to heavy metals. Other Basin cleanup actions have been completed by Federal agencies, States, Tribes, and Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs).
2013 Accomplishments Report EPA CI.pdf