The Legacy of the Bunker Hill Mine

  
Posted July 16, 2009 in Mining Labor History

Are there words to really tell you how I feel about all this? Even saying that this was premeditated mass murder seems not to be sufficient. To knowing cause deaths of workers, to knowing cause the great suffering of little children with their twisted bodies, and to knowing allow this to continue year after year, there are just no words in any language strong enough for such a crime. No matter how many years past, this crime haunts my very being, it sickens me. With the mixed emotions of sorrow for the victims and immense rage for the profiteers and the government, I will carry this with me to my dying day.

Through a conspiracy by the federal government, the state of Idaho, the courts and Gulf, the people of the area did not know about how badly they had been poisoned until 16 years later. The only action that was taken was by the Public Heath Service which went into the schools and would put on puppet shows to teach children how to play (among the effects of lead poisoning is reduced mental ability).

In 1985 Bunker Hill became the second largest Superfund site in the country, covering an area of 21 square miles. The following is but a small sampling of what was found at the site:

  • 1. Trees, grass and other vegetation would not grow in much of the area because of toxic metals in the soil and high soil acidity caused by sulfur dioxide emissions.
  • 2. The smelter contains at least 36,500 tons of toxic heavy metals including lead, zinc, cadmium, mercury, cobaly, copper, beryllium, arsenic, asbestos, antimony, selenium and PCBs. If all the buildings were to be demolished the hazardous debris from that alone would fill 22,500 dump trucks.
  • 3. The Central Impoundment Area, a level dike of smelter waste piled over 70 feet high and extended for a mile, contains 20 million tons of highly toxic mine tailings. When the wind blows, "fugitive dust" blows into the surrounding towns. Until recently, the town of Kellogg, not knowing of the toxins in the waste, would crush slag off these piles and spread it on icy streets.
  • 4. The yards, playgrounds, schools and even the rugs inside of homes were found to contain lead and other toxic material.
  • 5. The South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River and many streams were found to be repositories for lead, cadmium and zinc. Fish that found their way into these waters were killed. An estimated 72 million tons of mine tailings remain in these waters, and an estimated ton of heavy metals are washed down the river every day. The EPA says that cleaning up this mess in these waterways is beyond the Superfund capabilities.
  • 6. The problem is yet to end, for heavy metals are still coming out of the portals of the mines.

I wish I could take pity on you dear reader, and tell you that this corporate crime was confined to the Silver Valley, but it is not. The Coeur d'Alene River feeds into the Coeur d'Alene Lake, which is full of toxic sediment and from there it goes down the Spokane River which feeds into the Columbia River. The toxic sediment collects behind dams and washes all the way down the Columbia River to the ocean. Adding to this problem has been clear cut logging, road building and commercial development. All this adds to runoff from rain and melting snow which picks up the toxins from the ground and washes it into the rivers. This also increases the amount of flooding in the area. In years of great flooding toxic sediment is dispersed throughout the flooded area.


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Related Towns:

Kellogg Wallace

Did You Know.......

A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.
-Mark Twain

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