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Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Operable Unit 3, The Coeur d'Alene Basin

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Site Description

The Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Site in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington is divided into three Operable Units (OUs), or cleanup projects. OU 3, called the Basin, runs along the Coeur d'Alene River, through Lake Coeur d'Alene, and into the Spokane River. Mining and lead smelting from the late 1800s to the 1970s contaminated the soil, groundwater, air, and the river system with lead, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium. Communities in the Upper Basin were built on mine wastes and until as late as 1968, tailings were deposited directly into the river. Over time, these wastes have been distributed throughout more than 150 miles of the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane Rivers, lakes, and floodplains. Contaminated wetlands are causing waterfowl to die and since the 1970s, children in the vicinity have registered dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. About 242,000 people live in the vicinity of the Basin, which affects numerous communities, two states, and the lands of the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane Tribes.

Priority is being given to human health cleanups in community and recreation areas. Long-term cleanup is planned for mine and mill source areas in the Upper Basin, and the rivers, flood plains, lakes, and wetlands in the Coeur d'Alene Basin downstream of the mining areas.

Current Site Status and Cleanup Actions to Date

  • In 2004, EPA completed more soil sampling to refine plans for cleanup.
  • With funding provided by EPA, cleanup of residential, community, and recreational areas in Idaho began in summer 2003. EPA expects to complete cleanup on 150-200 properties and two river recreational areas in Idaho this year.
  • In 2002, EPA published its plan on how to cleanup the site, called the Record of Decision (ROD).
  • In 2001, EPA asked the public to comment on its proposed cleanup plan.
  • Since 1983, EPA has worked with the State of Idaho to address the sources of metals contamination in the Upper Coeur d'Alene River Basin in Idaho.

Current Funding Status

  • In Fiscal Year 2004, EPA provided $200,000 in Remedial Design (RD) funds. While additional work on the Remedial Design was not funded by EPA Headquarters in Fiscal Year 2004, EPA anticipates using $300,000 in special-accounts funding to conduct cleanup work in the summer of 2005.

For more information on the projects at this site, please read the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Operable Unit 3 Fact Sheet on the Region 10 Superfund Web site.

Key Accomplishments

  • EPA completed an initial screening to assess human health risks at all sites along the river to determine if more evaluation was needed.
  • After sampling and study along the Spokane River, EPA is now focusing on two high-use, high-contamination recreation areas.
  • EPA completed sampling to refine cleanup design plans.
  • Plans are well underway to ensure that these two sites will provide environmentally safe recreation options for the community.


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