IDEQ finishing work near Shoshone County Airport
Work crews with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality are finishing up a project in Smelterville where they are recapping a popular trail system. The section of trail shows how worn down the trail had become, as well as what what the new gravel barrier looks like.
Local Editor | November 17, 2023 1:00 AM
SMELTERVILLE –– Work crews with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) are wrapping up a small capping project in the east Smelterville Flats area.
The work is being done on the trail system that sits just north of Shoshone County Airport, where the crews have placed a four-inch barrier of ‘clean’ gravel and soil over the top of the existing trail.
Andy Helkey, IDEQ’s Kellogg Remediation Manager, explained that the property had previously been remediated, and originally had been capped with a six-inch barrier of clean materials. But over time, recreational activities and the elements have taken a toll on the barrier and IDEQ found that some spots had been worn down below the original barrier.
This particular trail system has become popular over recent years due to its accessibility, as well as being pet-friendly.
“I think in all, it’s 3.2 miles of trail system that we’re capping out there,” Helkey said. “This should help people from having to walk in mud and potentially track contaminated soils back with them. This helps us keep the area open for public use.”
The work is being completed as part of the Bunker Hill Superfund clean-up efforts, where over 100 years of mining and milling efforts resulted in extensive heavy metals contamination in the area, including high levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic found in the soil.
These heavy metals can enter the bloodstream through touching, inhaling, or ingesting and can have severe negative long-term health effects.
A common misconception is that clean-up efforts such as this project are funded through tax dollars, however, the project is being funded by monies generated from various settlements with mining companies, including a $263 million settlement from Hecla.
Those settlement dollars are held by the Environmental Protection Agency, which transfers the money to agencies like IDEQ to complete various projects.
IDEQ plans on having the trail work completed by the end of this week.
Helkey and IDEQ have one more project that they’d like to get completed before the end of the 2023 work season.
Just east of the old drive-in movie theater is a small piece of land that is just within the city limits of Kellogg, called Mountain View Park – IDEQ is hoping to be able to make some improvements to that park in the coming weeks.