Ed Moreen, a project manger for EPA, working on the clean-up of the Silver Valley, is a nice guy. So is Terry Harwood, an employee of the Idaho Department of Ecology.
Sincerity oozes as they explain what government is doing to protect human health within a mammoth basin-wide Superfund site.
Both men, however, reflect the arrogance so many bureaucrats display - that smugness that comes from feeling they have the facts and all the answers.
The ancient Greeks called it “hubris.” It was on full display last week at an informational meeting at the Medimont Grange Hall. Twenty of my neighbors and I showed up to listen and ask questions.
Like all the “chain lakes” that lie on either side of the Coeur d’Alene River between Cataldo and Harrison, nearby Cave and Medicine were swollen with water from the spring mountain run-off and unusually heavy rains.
Therein lies the problem. Each year this seasonal flow brings new amounts of lead and zinc from historic waste dumps throughout one of the most mineralized and mined areas in the nation.
Funding this effort is $750 million extracted from mining companies who contributed to the creation of the waste. By law the money can only be expended for clean-up in the basin.
But how clean is clean? And how much sense does it make remediate areas in the floodplain that are flooded again with contaminated water? How thorough are studies on human health impacts as opposed to studies about the swans several of which die each year from ingesting excessive zinc and lead.
Most work so far has been done in the 21 square mile “box” surrounding the old Bunker Hill site in Kellogg. Now attention is turning to the lower basin and there are significant differences EPA should note.
EPA is forming “collaboratives” of interested parties. They claim these advisory groups will have real input into their “adaptive management” approach.
People are skeptical. What they see is an agency hell bent on spending $750 million whether it is justified or not. Despite having been in the Silver Valley 20 years, the agency has no real time-line nor any real cost numbers for its plans in the lower basin. (more…)