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EPA: “Over 3,000 properties later, cleanup of residential areas in the Silver Valley “Box” is finished.”

Release Date: 07/07/2008
Contact Information: Anne McCauley, EPA Seattle 206-553-4689 Mark MacIntyre, EPA Seattle 206-553-7302

(Seattle, WA – July 7, 2008) With over 3,000 properties cleaned up, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have declared the cleanup of residential and commercial properties in the Silver Valley “Box” complete.

Residents of Wardner, Pinehurst, Smelterville, Page, Kellogg, Elizabeth Park, Montgomery Ranch and Ross Ranch have cooperated in a massive, multi-agency effort to sample, partially remove, and cap metals-contaminated soils in yards, school and play grounds, commercial properties, and road shoulders. The area described in today’s announcement is within the 21 square mile area surrounding the old Bunker Hill mining and smelting complex.

According to Dan Opalski, director of EPA’s Superfund program office Seattle, the Agency salutes the residents and local city officials who have played an “integral” role in the clean up.

“We know the work at times has been disruptive and inconvenient,” said Opalski. “After all, it literally took place in residents' backyards. But we were there to make their yards safer and protect their family’s health. On behalf of both EPA and IDEQ, I’d like to extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to these residents for their patience and cooperation during the cleanup process.”

In 1994, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) and EPA signed a legal agreement with the Hecla Mining Company, ASARCO Inc. and four other mining companies to perform a large-scale clean up of the residential areas within the Bunker Hill Superfund site “Box” to protect residents’ health.

EPA has recently certified that the mining companies have completed cleanup work they were required to perform within several residential and community areas within the populated areas of the Box. EPA and IDEQ will continue working with the mining companies to ensure that the mining companies satisfy their remaining Consent Decree obligations.

EPA - with input from IDEQ, the mining companies, and the general public - will perform reviews of the Bunker Hill Site cleanup. These reviews will occur every five years, so long as mining waste remains on the properties. The purpose of the reviews is to ensure the cleanup continues to effectively protect human health and the environment.

In addition, many areas were capped with clean soil but continue to have contaminated materials at depth. Therefore, residents and businesses must comply with the local Institutional Controls Program (ICP) to ensure that protective barriers are maintained. The ICP is managed by the Panhandle Health District located in Kellogg, ID.

The mining companies performed cleanup work that EPA selected in the August, 1991 Record-of-Decision (ROD), which specifically required the following activities:

  • Sampling for Contamination
  • Providing clean barriers on residential and commercial properties and on right-of-ways and road shoulders
  • Providing garden soil when requested
  • Closing contaminated drinking water wells and providing a reliable source of drinking water as necessary
For those few properties where workers were unable to gain access, funds to cover future cleanup has been paid by UMG to a trust fund managed by the State of Idaho. Should those property owners someday decide to have their property cleaned up, the Panhandle Health District (PHD) will contract for the necessary remedial activities.

Copies of the final Certification Reports for the clean up may be found in the Kellogg Library.

“As clean up moves ahead in the non-populated areas of the ‘Box’ and other areas throughout the Basin,” EPA’s Opalski added, “we are using knowledge gained here to help guide our work. As always, protecting public health will remain our top priority.”
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For more about EPA’s work to protect people and the environment in the Silver valley and the Coeur d’Alene Basin, go to:
http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/basin/Coeur+d'Alene+Basin