H.L. Mencken once noted that “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” And with a “listening session” with Senator Crapo and Governor Otter scheduled Monday evening in Kellogg, we’re concerned for the EPA’s new cleanup plan for the Silver Valley.
In a pending amendment to EPA’s “Record of Decision” governing the Superfund cleanup, the EPA is proposing a plan to clean up more than 300 mine waste sites in the upper Coeur d’Alene basin, deal with protecting the work already completed, and treat polluted groundwater — all in an effort to bring the environment in the Silver Valley back to a functional normal.
We are preparing detailed written comments on the plan, but overall, the EPA proposal is worthy of support. It sets out, with perhaps sad and unfortunate clarity, the scope and scale of the cleanup remaining in the upper basin. Until mine sites are cleaned, contamination stabilized, and polluted groundwater dealt with, the entire basin remains an ecological disaster zone.
At a recent EPA open house and hearing, dozens of residents spoke out against the EPA cleanup plan. Many were legitimately concerned about the 50 to 90 years that it will take to complete it. Many were legitimately concerned about the short comment period EPA allowed for the complicated plan.
But because many were concerned with the continuing stigma of the Superfund designation, an “EPA go home” mentality dominated the hearing. Unfortunately, both environmental law and environmental science are going to demand a long and difficult cleanup of a huge and difficult mess.
Indeed, it is another of Mencken‘s sayings which may be more apt, namely that “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Denying the problem, postponing the solution, and failing to get on with the cleanup would be clear and simple and wrong.
The public comment period is from July 12 to August 25, 2010. Send comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send it via mail to:
Coeur d’Alene Basin Team
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, MS ECL-113
Seattle, WA 98101