Every summer: Basin Yard Cleanups and Blood-lead Testing | Region 10 | US EPA

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Every summer: Basin Yard Cleanups and Blood-lead Testing

Free Blood-Lead Testing every summer
The Panhandle Health District (PHD) offers free blood-lead testing to all Box and Basin residents. To encourage families with children living in the Basin, PHD pays $20 for each child through six years of age to be tested. Older children or children living in the Box can also be tested, but are not paid to participate. Testing is voluntary and results are kept confidential. Fliers describing the testing program are distributed each spring; testing takes place each summer at Box and Basin locations. The health district also makes announcements about the program on local radio and in local newspapers. To learn more about voluntary testing or lead health effects, call the PHD at 208-783-0707.

Why are Basin yard soils being tested?
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are testing yards in the Coeur d’Alene Basin for lead and arsenic. We are testing soils to determine which properties require cleanup. If your property soil contains more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) lead or 100 ppm arsenic, it qualifies for contaminated soil removal and replacement with clean soil. Lead is a health concern because it causes subtle developmental effects in children. Arsenic causes cancer.

Do I have to pay to have my yard tested?
No. Property owners do not have to pay to have their yards tested or, if needed, cleaned up

What happens during a yard cleanup in the Basin?
If your yard soil contains more than 1,000 ppm lead or 100 ppm arsenic, we will excavate the contaminated soil down to one foot and remove it. If the soil deeper than one foot is still contaminated, we will place a visual marker fabric at the bottom of the excavated area and place clean soil over the visual marker. In general, grass seed or sod is placed on top of the clean soil. When we clean up a yard, we generally replace what we remove with the same material – for example, we will replace grass with grass seed and sod, and gravel with gravel. Gardens will receive two feet of clean soil if they are contaminated to that depth. EPA and IDEQ work with property owners to make sure landscaping features and gardens are undisturbed if the soil in those areas has less than 700 ppm lead or 100 ppm arsenic. If lead levels are between 700 and 1,000 ppm in the yard, a barrier (such as vegetation) will be placed to ensure that no bare soil is exposed.

Why are some yards considered higher priority than others?
Children under seven years old and pregnant women are most at risk from lead exposure. Because of this, EPA and DEQ prioritize testing and cleaning up these “high-risk” homes. Property owners can stay at their homes during testing and cleanup.

Are only yards addressed under this program?
No. In addition to residential yards, the agencies are also testing and cleaning up commercial properties and rights-of-way. Commercial properties are a large category that includes churches, schools, parks, and businesses.

How many Basin properties have been cleaned up?
Cleanup of Basin properties has been completed for the 2007 construction season. Property sampling continues; results are provided to property owners and to those interested in real estate transactions. In 2007, roughly 450 properties were cleaned up and over 950 properties sampled in the Basin.

Who do I call to have my yard tested?
If you live in the Basin and have questions about having your yard tested, call IDEQ’s Kellogg office at 208-783-5781.

Yard cleanup in the Box – an update
Together with IDEQ and the mining companies, EPA has cleaned up more than 3,190 properties in the residential and community areas of the Box. We are about 99.5% percent finished in the Box, with a handful of properties remaining.

Yards in the Box have had their lead soils analyzed and cleanups certified complete, and have protective clean-soil or gravel barriers. These barriers reduce lead exposure to young children and other residents. An Institutional Controls Program is in place which requires residents to maintain their clean-soil barriers. Before doing any excavating or grading, residents must contact the Panhandle Health District at 208-783-0707 to get a permit.
The Box and the Basin: which is which?
The Box: "The Box" is a 21-square mile area along I-90 in the Silver Valley in northern Idaho. It includes the towns of Pinehurst, Smelterville, Wardner, and Kellogg. It also includes the communities of Page, Ross Ranch, Elizabeth Park, and Montgomery Gulch. The Box is part of the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site. The populated areas of the Box are called OU1, or Operable Unit 1. The non-populated areas are called OU2, or Operable Unit 2.

The Basin: The Basin, also called Operable Unit 3 (OU3) of the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site, does not include the Box. It includes the mining-contaminated areas in the Coeur d’Alene River corridor, adjacent floodplains, downstream water bodies, tributaries, and fill areas. The Basin also includes mining-contaminated areas in the Spokane River upstream of Upriver Dam.

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