Remediation work on lead-contaminated properties in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Basin has increased by nearly 50% this year because of $20 million in stimulus funds awarded to the Idaho Dept. of Environmental Quality, says Dan Meyer, IDEQ remediation program manager.

Kellogg, Idaho
Kellogg, Idaho
North Wind crews grout concrete pile caps at the repository site in Idaho.
Photo: North Wind Inc.
North Wind crews grout concrete pile caps at the repository site in Idaho.

The money, which is being spread over a three-year period, has allowed the agency since August to accelerate yard remediation and materials handling for thousands of residential and commercial properties near Kellogg, Idaho.

Most of Kellogg was contaminated by the Bunker Hill lead smelter that operated there from 1917 to 1982. The area, which covers sections of northern Idaho and eastern Washington state, was designated as a federal Superfund site in 1983. The first phase of cleanup was done by the mining company itself.

Bunker Hill Site Remediation
Jobs Created Total: 50+
ARRA Award $20 Million

The current remediation, overseen jointly by engineering contractor North Wind Inc. and TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering Inc., both of Kellogg, is moving so rapidly that the project team is building a new repository to handle the waste.

“The stimulus ran us out of repository space,” says Ian von Lindern, TerraGraphics CEO, whose company has hired 20 additional people this year. “We have to get this new one online fast, and we’re looking at three to five more repositories over time.”

The Big Creek Repository, which at peak times handles 300 truckloads of waste per day, is more than 90% full. North Wind, which manages quality control and operation of the repositories, now is nearly 40% complete with the new 400,000-cu-yd East Mission Flats repository, being constructed about 10 miles downstream from the existing repository in the Coeur d’Alene Basin.

North Wind, based in Idaho Falls, credits U.S. Dept. of Energy and state cleanup work funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act with adding at least 30 to 40 positions to its staff of 350, says founder and CEO Sylvia Medina. The Bunker Hill cleanup has allowed the firm to hire 12 people on-site, doubling its Kellogg-area staff, says Kevin Redmond, construction division manager.

 “The stimulus funds are not coming to us directly,” he says. “They’re going to the two yard-remediation contractors [Ferguson Contracting Inc., Kellogg, and Stewart Contracting Inc., Pinehurst, Idaho], but the increase in their workload has fueled the entire remediation cycle, and it has allowed us to move this project forward more quickly.”

Redmond says the new EMF repository will be complete by late next spring.

The Bunker Hill remediation team is 60% to 70% complete with cleanup of residential properties, says Meyer. Decontamination of nonpopulated areas has not started yet.

“There’s probably another 20 years of work out there,” Von Lindern says.