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Columbia River

About the Columbia River: Above Grand Coulee Dam

The free-flowing headwaters of the Columbia River are located in the Canadian Rockies where snowmelt and spring water fill Columbia Lake near British Columbia's border with Alberta. From the headwaters, the river flows 600 miles downstream and swells behind Grand Coulee Dam. Grand Coulee is the first of 14 dams along the Columbia River.

EPA's work in the Upper Columbia

Below are summaries of several key environmental projects in the upper part of the Columbia River basin.

Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study

EPA is studying contamination in the Columbia River from the U.S./Canada border to the Grand Coulee Dam and surrounding upland areas. The study is called a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS).

Past studies by federal and state agencies have shown increased levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper, mercury and zinc, and other contaminants like dioxins and furans.


Bunker Hill Superfund Site

The Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Superfund Site, located in northern Idaho and eastern Washington, was listed on the Superfund National Priorities List in 1983.

EPA and its partners have made a great deal of cleanup progress, reducing risks to the health of people and the environment. More work remains, and the cleanup is expected to take decades. It's one of the most vast and complex Superfund sites in the U.S., within one of the largest historical mining districts in the world.

The site includes mining-contaminated areas in the Coeur d'Alene River corridor, adjacent floodplains, downstream water bodies, tributaries, and fill areas. It also encompasses the 21 square mile Bunker Hill "Box", located in the area surrounding the historical smelter operation.


Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force

The Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force leads efforts to find and reduce toxic compounds in the Spokane River. Their goal is to develop a comprehensive plan to bring the Spokane River into compliance with water quality standards for PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). These pollutants exceed water quality standards in several segments of the river.