A Complex Solution for the Silver Valley

//A Complex Solution for the Silver Valley

A Complex Solution for the Silver Valley

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 cdabasin@epa.gov 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


By |2011-12-22T10:44:12+00:00August 9th, 2010|blog|6 Comments


  1. Rich Hurry August 9, 2010 at 8:10 am - Reply

    Apropros tonight’s meeting, another H.L. Mencken quote may be relevant: “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”

  2. […] night, Senator Crapo and Governor Otter hosted another round of opposition to the EPA’s proposed cleanup plan for the Silver Valley. Mostly a rerun of last week’s hearing, Hecla Mining employees, local citizens, and local […]

  3. […] We heard earlier in the week that the EPA would probably be extending the comment period for cleanup proposal for the upper Coeur d’Alene Basin. Well, it is indeed true. Commenters will now have another […]

  4. […] proposed cleanup plan might not be a perfect solution to the Valley’s mine waste problem, failing to act is not an option.  Postponing or avoiding the cleanup only serves to increase the potential for toxic exposures to […]

  5. […] of waste cleanup and water treatment for the upper basin.  Unfortunately though, it’s probably a fair assessment of what it takes at current funding levels to clean up the Silver Valley once and for all. Hecla’s proposal […]

  6. Birds Can’t Read « KEA Blog February 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    […] dead tundra swans in the Coeur d’Alene River corridor. Short of cleaning up the entire mess, which will take decades at the earliest, what can be done to keep the birds from getting […]

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