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At Idaho Superfund Site, Pavement Used To Help The Environment

A street in Wallace, Idaho was repaved last fall as part of the Superfund cleanup in the Coeur d'Alene Basin.

With the weather warming up, work has resuming at one of the largest Superfund sites in the nation. The EPA is trying to clear decades of mine pollution from Idaho's Coeur d'Alene River Basin and the upper reaches of the Spokane River. And this summer, managers are using an environmental remedy you might not expect: pavement.

Managers on the Superfund site say they'll spend about $8 million this year on new asphalt or concrete on stretches of north Idaho road. Road crews are scheduled to be deployed to Wallace, Kellogg and other small towns. Ultimately, officials hope to repair or replace roughly 150 miles of county roads and city streets in the cleanup area.

Bruce Schuld of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality helps oversee the work. He says the problem is that many of the roads were built on top of soil contaminated with lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic from the mines.

“That contaminated material comes up through the cracks, potholes, etc. And during particularly winter time, it runs off on the side of the road into people's front yards and it's being tracked around on people's vehicles, bicycles, shoes and everything else,” Schuld said.

The EPA has been working since the '80s to clean up old mine waste in Idaho's Silver Valley.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.