Get the Lead Out
Residents of northern Idaho are fiercely resisting a plan by the U.S. EPA to expand a 21-square-mile area into one of the country’s largest Superfund sites. That’s not so unusual — many towns resist Superfund designation, fearing that the stigma will drive away tourists and businesses. But some northern Idaho towns have filed a lawsuit to block expansion of the cleanup. The EPA has been working in the area since the 1980s, after tests showed that residue from giant silver smelters and mine tailings were causing sharply elevated levels of lead in residents. Lead poisoning can cause developmental, mental, and behavioral problems in children. EPA spokesperson Bill Dunbar said the contamination was too severe to ignore, and noted that if the agency did not pursue the expansion, “We’d get sued by the good number of people there who do want a cleanup.” A final decision by the EPA is expected later this spring.