For the remainder of the summer, residents walking along the Centennial Trail in the Spokane Valley, may encounter equipment such as loaders and dump wagons that may close the trail for a few minutes at a time.
Construction begins this week to make sure people and wildlife aren’t exposed to heavy metals that settled on some of the Spokane River’s shorelines as a result of old mining practices in the Silver Valley, Idaho.
According to the Department of Ecology, the closures won’t be for long durations, and the result will be that beach areas will be cleaner and safer for you and your family to use. Flaggers will be available and signs will be posted to let people know these access areas are closed.
Contractors will remove contaminated soil while water levels are low at three Spokane River beaches: the Barker Road North beach on the north side of the Spokane River, east of the Barker Road Bridge -- plus the Islands Lagoon and Myrtle Point beaches on the south side of the Spokane River. Workers will install a protective cap over the remaining soil to reduce the possibility of exposure.
Similar work was done at the Flora Road beach in 2009. However, heavy spring runoff in 2011 damaged portions of the protective cover or cap. This year a new cap will be installed, designed to minimize future erosion.
Ecology and local river groups will plant native vegetation on the shoreline to help stabilize the banks at Barker Road North and Myrtle Point. Work will continue through September.
The beach work is part of the Eastern Washington Clean Sites Initiative, an effort that involves communities and other partners in shaping cleanup projects that improve local residents’ quality of life. Cleanup funds come from the state’s voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.
Historic mining practices in the Coeur d’Alene Basin resulted in contaminants known as heavy metals washing downstream from Idaho. The metals include lead, arsenic, zinc and cadmium. They settled in soil and sediments at certain shoreline areas along the Spokane River.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began studying mining contaminants in the Coeur d’Alene Basin in 1983. Additional studies began in 1998 that included evaluation of mining-related impacts to the Spokane River in Washington. As part of that study, the EPA identified nine beaches affected by metals.
EPA and Ecology cleaned up the Starr Road beach in 2006. Ecology cleaned up Island Complex and Murray Road beaches in 2007, Harvard Road North in 2008 and Flora Road in 2009.