After taking the winter off, the crews working on the mining waste cleanup projects in the Coeur d’Alene Basin will soon get back out in the field.
One of the big emphasis areas this year is reducing the amount of contaminated water that runs down from the hills above Wallace and Kellogg. The water eventually works its way into the south fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and down toward Coeur d’Alene Lake and Spokane.
Crews are working on several projects. In the Ninemile Creek area, machines will remove soil containing heavy metals. That area is one of the largest contributors to the contaminated runoff.
And then there are three projects that will soon begin in Kellogg. One, crews will build an underground barrier that will run along the south side of Interstate 90 to stop the path of that runoff and redirect it into a series of new wells. Those wells will then pipe the water to the second project, a new treatment facility. Crews will also build a third project, a facility that will process and store the sludge left over after water treatment.
Also, this spring, Ed Moreen from the Environmental Protection Agency says crews are getting ready to sample water downstream in the South Fork if there is flooding.
“We’re going to hopefully be able to capture, on boats, during flood events like we did in 2017, all up and down the river," Moreen said. "What we saw last year was a steep spike in concentrations right downstream of the Cataldo boat launch. We want to see if that happens again this year. We expect that it would if another big flood event occurs. And we’re going to focus our efforts on what we can do about that in our next steps.”
Other work in the basin this year: crews will continue to pave roads and replaced contaminated soil with clean dirt in residential yards. The goal is to keep the heavy metals sequestered and out of the public. Also, people who go to lakes, the river and other areas to play will see more signs warning them about the potential contamination from metals-laden dirt and things they can do to protect their health.