News Releases

Murray Outraged That EPA Won’t Fund Spokane River Superfund Cleanup

Jul 18 2003

EPA funds Idaho, but not Washington, cleanup of Bunker Hill/Coeur D’Alene Basin

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – While the EPA announced yesterday it will allocate $49 million to begin clean-up efforts at 11 Superfund sites, the agency said it would not clean up 10 other extremely hazardous waste sites across the country, including contaminated areas along the Spokane River in Washington.

The Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Site polluted the Coeur D’Alene River, Lake Coeur D’Alene and the Spokane River with its mining and lead smelting operations from the late 1800s through the 1970s. These operations contaminated the soil, groundwater, air and the river systems with lead, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium. As a result, the Coeur D’Alene basin has been designated a Superfund site.

In 2002, EPA released a Record of Decision (ROD) on cleanup of the Coeur D’Alene Basin, to address the size and scope of the cleanup needed. The ROD identified 10 polluted sites for cleanup along a 16-mile stretch of the Spokane River, “on the basis of potential human and ecological risks.” The EPA estimated that Spokane River Cleanup would cost between $4.5 and $11 million.

But while the EPA identified these sites for cleanup last year, the agency has decided not to fund cleanup efforts. And at the same time, the EPA announced it would provide Superfund cleanup funding for the Coeur D’Alene basin on the Idaho side of the border.

Sen. Murray released the following statement:

”It is deeply troubling that the EPA has chosen not to fund cleanup efforts in Washington state, despite the contamination of our water and our soil. It is outrageous that EPA is going to fund cleanup for the same project on the Idaho side of the border, but ignore the Washington sites. EPA’s own Record of Decision in 2002 declared that the Washington sites ‘have been identified for cleanup on the basis of potential human and ecological risk.’

The men, women and children who live in Eastern Washington deserve to live in a healthy, clean environment. It is tragic that the EPA won’t commit the resources to make this happen.

The problem, according to the EPA, is that the Superfund account is inadequate to clean up all of the necessary sites. The solution is to reinstate the Superfund tax.

The Superfund tax was established to make certain that polluters, not taxpayers, are held accountable to clean up toxic waste.

Unfortunately, there are some who oppose reinstating the Superfund tax. Apparently, they would prefer to let the polluters off the hook, stick taxpayers with the bill, and indefinitely delay the Spokane River cleanup.”

To get a copy of the EPA’s 2002 Record of Decision Fact Sheet, and a map of the polluted sites along the Spokane River, please call 202-224-2834.

See the map of Spokane River sites that EPA is not cleaning up