Environmental science education – Silver Valley style

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  • Photo by CHANSE WATSON Environmental Protection Agency Community Liaison Maureen Gilbert (second to the right) speaks about her position with the EPA to a group of students at the Science & Health Fair.

  • 1

    Idaho Department of Environmental Quality West Silver Valley Airshed Project Coordinator talks about the programs that the agency is running in the Silver Valley.

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    Lance Boylan with Hecla Mining Co. explains the water purification process they use in their mines.

  • Photo by CHANSE WATSON Environmental Protection Agency Community Liaison Maureen Gilbert (second to the right) speaks about her position with the EPA to a group of students at the Science & Health Fair.

  • 1

    Idaho Department of Environmental Quality West Silver Valley Airshed Project Coordinator talks about the programs that the agency is running in the Silver Valley.

  • 2

    Lance Boylan with Hecla Mining Co. explains the water purification process they use in their mines.

KELLOGG — More than 70 environmental science students and faculty from the University of Idaho recently got a firsthand look at what makes the Silver Valley so dirty. And no, I don’t mean a tour of Wallace’s old Red Light District.

Representatives with the Panhandle Health District spent much of Wednesday educating the curious group from Moscow on the rocky environmental history of the area and what is being done about it today.

PHD institutional controls program manager Andy Helkey started the event off by giving a presentation on the topic, bringing the students up-to-speed on the work being conducted in the 21-square-mile Environmental Protection Agency Bunker Hill Superfund site, otherwise known as “the Box.”

The presentation was proceeded by a quick tour of some of the current operations in “the Box,” giving the group a real-world view of what was discussed earlier. One of the visits in particular Helkey mentioned was a stop at Galena Ridge, “so we could look back at the CIA (Central Impoundment Area) and explain to them how it used to be the tailings pond and what’s capped in there.”

Following a quick lunch catered by the Pizza Palace, students were then taken to the main event of the day — the Environmental Science & Health Fair at the Kellogg Community Center (formerly Kellogg Middle School).

Vendors from the various government and private agencies that work in the Superfund were on hand to answer questions and explain to the public what role they play in the overall clean-up effort.

Participating agencies and companies included Pioneer Technical Services, CDM Smith, North Wind, Hecla, IDEQ-Remediation, IDEQ-Air Quality, University of Montana-Air Quality, IDEQ-Water Quality, Shoshone County, EPA, Panhandle Health District/ICP, SVL Analytical, Alta Science & Engineering, U.S. Forest Service, University of Idaho and the Panhandle Health District-Septic Program.

From the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality showing how they are working to clean the Silver Valley’s air to Hecla Mining Co. explaining how they purify groundwater they come across during operations, attendees got to see the many aspects of how the Valley is recovering from being one of the worst environmental disaster areas in the nation.

Local students from the Wallace School District also came by to learn more about their home.

Helkey noted that the fair was incredibly useful for those who showed up, especially the students.

“A lot of them really appreciated just how many job opportunities in different areas there are to work around here,” he said.

Although the specific day events were planned in just a month’s time, this field trip by the University of Idaho has been on the minds of environmental science faculty since Helkey paid them a visit.

“I went down to the university and did a presentation for the environmental science students and faculty down there a few months ago,” he explained. “They contacted us back because the presentation I did was fairly well received and they had quite a few students that wanted to see it.”

This year’s field trip was worked into the “Environmental Science 102” class curriculum and PHD hopes that it will become an annual event.

Overall, both Helkey and PHD Environmental Health Specialist Val Wade thought the whole day was productive.

“It went pretty good,” Helkey said. “Getting the number of people we did to show up and then the number of vendors willing to contribute their time, it was a big success.”

Donations for the event came from Alta Science and Engineering, The Hill Street Depot and The Bean, University of Idaho and Silver Mountain Resort.

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