† Silver Valley People's Action Coalition
††† P.O.Box 362
††† Kellogg, ID†† 83837
††† Phone/Fax: 208-784-8891
††† June 24, 2002
To the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Re: Letter of Support for S.B. 606 EPA Ombudsman Reauthorization
"God created a natural order when he made the earth. The air we breathe and the soil that we walk upon was not intended to do us harm. When that order is disrupted and as severely as it has been in the area of Shoshone County, otherwise known as the Silver Valley Bunker Hill Superfund site, chaos, confusion, and adversity of health reign, even one hundred years after the first reporting of the lead and heavy metal pollution".
Silver Valley People's Action Coalition is a sixteen-year-old non-profit organization established in Shoshone County and whose main mission has been to resolve the issues of environmental injustice resulting in a century of renegade mining operations.
It was SV PAC who first requested the investigation of Bob Martin EPA National Ombudsman when technical advisors for the nations second largest Superfund site found that after ten years of remediation that Region Ten EPA had failed to remove lead and other heavy metal pollutants such as cadmium, arsenic, zinc, mercury and give the 5000 citizens living in four towns of the 21 sq. mile site a quality cleanup. It was determined in 1998 that even though EPA had the technology to do so, "the clean up at Bunker Hill is inadequate and residents are still at risk", Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, Technical Advisor for the Bunker Hill Superfund site, Kellogg, Id. In his report reviewing the studies done at Bunker Hill, in 1986 when SV PAC first became involved it was reported that the federal government had spent somewhere in the area of $25,000,000 on studies of the site and not one shovel full of dirt had been removed! The report goes on to state that the lesser quality clean up had been negotiated by EPA with the mining companies years before.
As a result of the site not being adequately remediated, today more than 300,000 citizens in a 1500 sq. mile area beginning at the Montana border and extending into Washington State are awaiting a Record of Decision for alternatives to cleaning up lead and mine waste that has traveled downstream. One of every four children tested outside the 21 sq. mile "boxĒ is found to have an elevated lead and are now lead poisoned. Numerous children in the Bunker Hill site are also still being tested a routine began in about 1974 and are found with elevated lead levels. Tragically nothing is done to properly diagnose or treat these children and the figures are being used by health officials to say that the site is cleaned up. When in fact the Record of Decision for the Bunker Hill site calls for the total removal of lead from the interior of homes and schools. Homes where in a 1992 pilot study found to have 2 to 50 times more lead in them than the yards that have been replaced. To this day nothing has been done to remove the lead from the interior of homes and unacceptable protocols to do testing in schools has been only partially carried out.
In Sept. of 1998 SV PAC took these concerns to Region Ten who agreed that 12 specific areas identified by the Technical Advisors needed to be addressed for additional cleanup. At the same time it was recommended to call upon Idaho's political delegation to assist with an investigation to assure that the these areas targeted for cleanup were indeed addressed by EPA. This is when then Cong. Crapo first cooperated with our organization and the need for an Ombudsman investigation.†
We are concerned at this time of Idaho's political leaders involvement in this process after selecting a member of the special interest mining group who has only been established in the area for less than two years to speak on behalf of SB 606. The group she represents is not only small in number but also has the backing of the local newspaper owned by one of the PRP's of the Superfund site that has no limits to the slander, lies and personal attacks directed at the victims who suffer from lead poisoning, oppression and economic depression brought on by the pollution. We live in fear of what is done to us on a local front for speaking out and actively working with EPA to bring the best possible cleanup and improved qaulity of life to our families and even tourists.
It is because of conflicts such as this that necessitates the importance for an independent National Ombudsman office to be established. An Ombudsman office that is free from bureaucratic and political pressures too often found in Superfund sites and communities with extreme pollution and contamination. The Ombudsmanís position would maintain a fair, objective and impartial playing field for all of the citizenry involved.
These are only some of the facts and problems arising from the largest Superfund site in the nation. These are reasons why SV PAC who has been long invested and worked with EPA, politicians, other agencies and most importantly the affected citizens support the permanent establishment of the Ombudsmanís office. Due to his high level of commitment and impartiality in carrying out the work of the EPA Ombudsman office, Bob Martin is the person who has the experience and ability to fulfill the responsibilities of this office over the long haul.
In closing we thank this committee for holding these hearings and respectfully request that Robert J. Martin be reinstated as the national ombudsman for the EPA allowing him to bring closure to hours of work he has begun. In so doing this committee, present administrator and administration will witness a be part of an office it can be truly proud of!
Director for SV PAC†