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Phase 1 of boat launch project completed

by JOSH MCDONALD
Staff Reporter | June 27, 2022 10:24 AM

CATALDO — Earlier this month, work crews finished the first phase of a clean-up project at the Cataldo Boat Launch.

The project is being carried out by the Coeur d’Alene Work Trust under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This is a relatively small project compared to so many of the other projects completed by the EPA, but it remains important due to the sheer volume of people who utilize the area around the boat launch.

“It gets such heavy use from the public,” said Bonnie Arthur, EPA project manager. “The increase in visitors to the area has just gone nuts the last couple of years.”

The first phase of the project consisted of remediating the dirt field near the boat launch, where folks tend to park their vehicles while they are using the water.

According to Arthur, test results from the soil there show lead levels almost five times higher than the numbers associated with much of their clean-up efforts.

To remedy the immediate exposure with the contaminated soils, a heavy layer of gravel is being laid down where people are parking. In other areas, the land will be fenced off so grass can be grown — using seed that they have already seen success with in the Nine-Mile project area.

Arthur also explained that many of the cases of elevated blood-lead levels stem from folks getting out and recreating — oftentimes in places that haven’t been cleaned up.

“We’re doing what we can to either remove, or make sure that there is a cap between the families and this contaminated soil,” Arthur said. “We’re also adding new signage, following along with our ‘Play Clean’ campaign. If you can, avoid the sediments and sand near the river. But if you’re in the sand, make sure you wash your hands and clean your clothes before you come back into the house.”

Crews will haul metals — contaminated soils from the boat launch to the East Mission Flats Repository.

Phase 2 will start in the fall months, where EPA plans to lay down fresh asphalt after the boat launch’s busy season wraps up.

The Cataldo Boat Launch lies squarely within the Bunker Hill Superfund Site, and according to historic records, a suction dredge operated near the boat launch that dredged nearly 35 million tons of material from the bottom of the Coeur d’Alene River that were then deposited into a tailings pond that covered roughly 2,000 acres.

The dredge operated for nearly 40 years, from 1930 to 1968.

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