Citizens of Bunker Hill Superfund Site Demand Justice

2020 view of Osburn, Idaho, eastward across the South Fork Coeur d'Alene River floodplain, the Bunkerhill Superfund Site

Turned Down Again

(Kellogg, ID) The U.S. Department of Justice, (USDOJ) and EPA Reg. Ten agencies agreement to meet on July 31 with the Silver Valley Community Resource Center, (SVCRC) a 35-year-old non-profit organization along with several other affected groups to discuss ongoing concerns and solutions regarding the Bunker Hill National Priority, (NPL) site failed to take place. At the start-up time of the meeting, the USDOJ rep. contacted SVCRC that they had set up another meeting at a different location and agendas without informing them. Short notice affected attendance and the opportunity for the public to share their concerns regarding the failed commitment of the EPA to address the lead and heavy metal contamination and human health conditions of the century-old Superfund site.

The USDOJ’s original August 2022 site visit was coordinated by SVCRC, Children Run Better and the Intermountain Fair Housing Council to investigate their reports of ongoing threats, demonization, and vilification by EPA Reg. 10 staff. It was at a time the USDOJ had acknowledged irregularities in EPA’s cleanup work adding to and ignoring the communities’ contributions to solutions as a 1995 Record of Decision to remove contamination for the interior of homes, main pathways of lead exposure to children and families.

1920 historic tailings view – Osburn, Idaho, eastward. Tailings Plank Dam in South Fork Coeur d’Alene River.
1920 historic tailings view – Osburn, Idaho, eastward.
Tailings Plank Dam in South Fork Coeur d’Alene River – what was to become the Bunkerhill Superfund Site.

The July 31 meeting agenda was agreed upon by the agency and SVCRC to present a consolidation of three decades of suppressed documentation related to the overwhelming support and data for immediate closure of the Mission of the Sacred Heart toxic waste dump a National Historic Landmark, constructed on the Coeur D’Alene tribal lands in the historic floodplain. In the first year of the toxic dump construction, the US/GS measured 160 metric tons of lead washed downstream of the Coeur d’Alene River, tributaries, and lake into Spokane River in one day of annual flooding. Thousands of Bunker Hill Superfund site citizens, as well as state, regional, and national environmental justice groups joined the opposition for closure of the site. Region Ten EPA, Ed Moreen, told a meeting of more than 100 attendees, “We don’t care what you want, we (EPA) are going to do it anyway”. Since that time, anyone who spoke up to oppose the repository has met with intimidating phone calls, and repercussions, equal to civil and human rights violations.

Additionally, the Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry, (ATSDR) conducted a year-long investigation to locate 35 years of Bunker Hill Superfund site children’s lead testing results. Lead exposure is known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems. Lead testing of children is mandated by federal law. ATSDR could not conclude any findings. The SVCRC, Children Run Better Unleaded (CRBU) project is the only proactive lead testing source in the Bunker Hill Superfund site, (BHSS), (the CRBU project was made possible by Bob and Jeri McCroskey, SVCRC Board members) The SVCRC/CRBU have worked for decades in good faith with the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare, the Panhandle Health District, even traveling to Atlanta, Georgia to acquire $250,000 that had to be turned over to the Idaho Dept. of Health for the lead testing of children. The ATSDR investigation could find no documentation of these funds.

The Idaho Lead Oversight Committee – formed by SVCRC/CRBU after the 2003 US District Court ruled that the Governor and Idaho Dept. of Health had to begin lead testing of children to avoid additional legal suits – announced that the CDC was granting the committee funds to conduct lead health intervention projects in the Silver Valley.  The SVCRC and CRBU inquired and were turned down for any funds to conduct lead projects.

The Silver Valley Community Resource Center (SVCRC), led by Barbara Miller, will be scheduling a meeting in the near future to discuss concerns over the USDOJ’s action and to present documentation of suppression of evidence by the EPA.  On the agenda will be documentation to:

  • Shut down the Old Mission Repository use for the disposal of toxic waste 
  • Settlement funds for the establishment of the Community Lead Health Center
  • Implementation of the 1995 EPA Record of Decision to remediate lead inside homes located in the epicenter of the BHSS

If you would like more information, or to review the documentation supporting the issues above, please plan to attend the to-be-announced upcoming meeting, contact the SVCRC, at svcommunityresourcecenter@gmail.com. We need to show support for these issues now more than ever, not only for the people living in the Silver Valley but to demonstrate to everyone that concerned citizens can overcome injustice in their communities.

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