Stop Toxic Dumping at the Historic Cataldo Mission
Environmental and Congressional resources
Silver Valley Community Resource Center
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"Who is going to be accountable if my children and grandchildren become lead poisoned?" Carla Madsen Bassemier, Cataldo, Idaho resident, upon finding out about the Old Mission Repository, Nov. 2007
Early on the morning of April 21, 2007 the families living near and in the nations largest lead Superfund site picked up the Spokesman Review and read for the first time that a toxic waste dump was going to be established by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) at the Old Mission at Cataldo. These same families, citizens and groups could not believe what they were reading. For the next several weeks The Silver Valley Community Resource Center (SVCRC) did their best to find out what was happening. Ed Moreen, EPA official for the Bunker Hill/CDA Basin site, was telling anyone who asked that the site was supported by "everyone", including the Coeur d'Alene Tribe whose ancestors built the Sacred Heart Mission with Jesuit priests and established a reservation on the proposed toxic repository in the late 1800's.
Today the Mission is one of the few designated National Historic Landmarks in the State of Idaho. It sits on a hill purposely so to avoid the flooding that has gone on in the area every year since 1848 when construction of the old church began. It is also where EPA and IDEQ want to build a 60 ft., 600,000 cubic yard, and 19 acre (to begin with) toxic waste repository. In information acquired by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, many now know these two agencies deceived certain individuals in the downstream areas, including the towns of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington, by telling them the site would only be 16 ft. tall and would be located at least 3 miles from the Mission. EPA and IDEQ continue to deceive certain individuals that there is a moratorium of the site when all the while they continue to develop the site in preparation for years and years of dumping. In the same information request both agencies acknowledge the existence of annual flooding and have no provided no evidence that the repository will have a lining. The agencies claim that a liner would not be any improvement for health and safety because "the liner will float", leading to greater leaching of deadly lead and other toxic mine waste, to be washed out and travel downstream to area rivers and Coeur d'Alene Lake.
In June, 2007 as a result of the public learning about this project, and opposing the intended repository, EPA and IDEQ released a report for public comment. In less than a week more than 500 people had signed a petition opposing the site. The deadline for the comments was July 6, 2007. On June 25 the two agencies began digging up the site, ten days before the public comment period was to end.
In July 2007, Rick Eichstaedt, an attorney from the Center for Justice representing the Sierra Club, asked: "Why do you offer something up for public comment if you're going to start it anyway?
In September, 1998 at the closure of extensive work by Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, Technical Advisor for the SVCRC, a letter was written to Chuck Clarke, and EPA administrator at the time, stating, "the citizens of the Silver Valley did not want any more dumping of any kind of waste by anyone ever again in our community!" Since that time the Smelterville, Idaho toxic waste repository continues to be utilized, the Central Impoundment Area in Kellogg, Idaho, is filled with millions of tons of toxic waste and covered over, and at the Big Creek area right off of the I-90 freeway east of Kellogg one will find another 40-50 ft. tall toxic repository.
"The government is trying to cramp this down our throats," says Jeanie Smith a local resident long involved with the cleanup of the nations largest Superfund site.
Presently SVCRC has requested the involvement of the EPA Inspector General's office in order to conduct a review regarding "the appropriate public participation" process for the site.
"Gone are the days when the special interests and agency representatives could get away with this type of disregard, deception and intimidation", Barbara Miller, Director SVCRC.
We invite anyone who believes a toxic waste dump at the Old Mission at Cataldo is not a good idea to sign our petition.
Please feel free to contact our office for any additional questions or comments you may have.
Financial contributions are needed and welcome to support our work, including a Lead Health Screening and Treatment Program. SVCRC is a 501 c3 tax-exempt and non-profit organization working for environmental justice in the Silver Valley for more than 20 years.