Washington, Idaho feud over mining cleanup

By NICHOLAS GERANIOS

Associated Press

SPOKANE — Like neighbors bickering over dog droppings, politicians in Washington and Idaho are battling over who should clean up decades worth of mining pollution in the Silver Valley.

The pollution, including lead and arsenic, flowed into Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene, and entered Washington through the Spokane River, traveling all the way to its confluence with the Columbia.

All sides agree the river basin should be cleaned up, but they differ on the approach.

Idaho officials want more control, and want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, especially its dreaded Superfund designation, to butt out.

A big reason is that mining jobs have declined, while tourism to northern Idaho’s lakes and ski resorts has become a big business. Idahoans fear that few vacationers will schedule trips to Superfund sites.

That makes many Washington residents suspicious that Idaho is more interested in cleaning up its image than its pollution. Washington wants the EPA to largely fund and control the work.

"We cannot be dependent on Idaho’s legislators to protect Washington citizens, only Idaho mining companies," Jeffrey Hedge of Spokane complained at a recent public hearing in Spokane.

The EPA designated a 21-square-mile area around Kellogg, Idaho, a Superfund site in 1983, and nearly finished cleaning it up. Environmental groups are now pushing for a much larger cleanup of the entire Coeur d’Alene River Basin.

The EPA is conducting studies and will decide next year if it should extend cleanup work all the way into Washington state, and whether to use Superfund trust money.

Two public hearings — on Aug. 19 in Coeur d’Alene and Nov. 14 in Spokane — drew many of the region’s power brokers.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Sens. Mike Crapo and Larry Craig and Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, all Idaho Republicans, appeared at the Idaho event.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chaired the Spokane event, and said EPA must ensure that the health of people along the Spokane River will be protected.

"We see EPA as being the only body that can do a thorough, fair job," added Jani Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.

That feeling is not universal. Republican Rep. George Nethercutt, who represents the Spokane area in Congress, said "a Superfund designation would buy gridlock and litigation."

Washington officials became interested in the issue in 1998, when federal scientists detected high levels of lead, arsenic and zinc in a 90-mile stretch of the Spokane River, from Post Falls, Idaho, to Lake Roosevelt in Eastern Washington.

The extent of the pollution is unclear, and it is not considered an imminent threat to human health. But signs have been posted along the river which warn that swallowing or breathing soil may pose health risks.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Wrong-way driver accused of aggravated murder of Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Bothell
Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.