Dirt Dumps Growing in Silver Valley
State and federal officials offer open house on plans to expand Page Repository, a dump for heavy metals-contaminated dirt.
Kellogg, Smelterville, Wardner and other towns within the 21-square-mile Bunker Hill Superfund "box" were essentially built on top of mine tailings from hillside mining operations.
The old Bunker Hill smelter also spewed tons of lead from its smokestack that settled across the valley, upstream of Coeur d'Alene. So when the Superfund site was established in the early '80s, the Environmental Protection Agency decided that rather than relocate the towns, they would try to clean up the toxic waste in and around the communities.
Thousands of residential yards have been cleaned up since then—but dirt contaminated with unsafe levels of lead and arsenic had to go somewhere, and it's stayed in the valley in often controversial soil repositories.
The Page Repository, built atop an old tailings pond in Page, is nearly full. So the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality plans to expand it. That means filling in 15 acres of wetlands adjacent to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.
The Page swamp is contaminated with heavy metals and not safe for waterfowl. The DEQ plans to replace the lost swampland with restored, clean wetlands on the other side of the trail (known as the "Weenie Wetlands") and to create new high quality wetlands in Blue Creek Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene.
The project is still in the early design phase, and the project manager tells us that public input is helpful.
To learn more about the expansion plans, attend an Open House, between 7 and 9 p.m., Thursday, April 21 at the Kellogg Middle School library, 810 Bunker Ave., in Kellogg.