U.S. Water News Online
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Heavy metals pollution in the Coeur
d'Alene River Basin poses little risk to tourists, but some residents
living in the Superfund site may face higher exposures, according to
a new report.
The report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
studied the 3,700-square-mile basin from the Idaho-Montana border to
the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia rivers in Washington. It
generally found the effects of decades of pollution were declining.
The study concluded there were health concerns for people living
east of Lake Coeur d'Alene because of lead-contaminated soil,
household dust and fish. Some children who live in this area also had
elevated blood lead levels.
"Homes with young children, children who cognitive
deficits/disabilities, or women of child-rearing age are of most
concern," said the study.
There was no apparent public health hazard for people living west
of Lake Coeur d'Alene, the study found.
People who play on the sparkling lake face no apparent health
hazards from heavy metals, the study said.
The Bunker Hill mine and smelting complex in Kellogg, Idaho, and
the surrounding region were added to the Superfund list in 1983, and
have been the subject of extensive studies. The new report did not
look at the 21-square-mile site in Kellogg that had the worst
pollution and the most extensive cleanup work.
Instead, it examined heavy metals pollution, primarily lead,
cadmium and arsenic, in the broader area.
It studied Lake Coeur d'Alene, which has hundreds of thousands of
recreation users each year, plus the new Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
biking trail from the lake to the town of Mullan, Idaho. It also
studied the source of the Spokane River, at the lake, to where it
spills into the Columbia west of Spokane.
The Silver Valley of northern Idaho, along Interstate 90, has been
one of the world's major silver producers for decades, and
underground mining produced huge piles of tailings contaminated with
heavy metals in the region.
The study recommended that contaminated soil continue to be
removed from residential areas, that the blood lead levels of
children continue to be monitored and that warnings to limit
consumption of fish from the lake remain.
People who eat an average of 540 grams -- about 1.2 pounds -- or
more of fish per day, are exposed to heavy metals from other sources
and already have elevated blood lead levels are at greatest risk, the
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