Moon Creek tailings containment, Idaho Panhandle National Forest, Shoshone County, Idaho

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NEARLY five to six years ago, when one walked through the lower tailings areas of the Moon Creek site, it may have indeed seemed like a lunar landscape: there were very few trees or plants growing along the narrow valley floor, only the tan and dusty tailings remaining from the abandoned upstream mine and mill. Lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals within these tailings were preventing plant growth, and contaminating Moon Creek as it flowed through the site. Susan Alvarez made this first visit in the spring of 1996. Her firm, Ridolfi, had just been hired by Region 1 of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to conduct an Engineering Evaluation/ Cost Analyses (EE/CA). and to develop construction plans for a non-time-critica1 removal action to reclaim the site, as a project to be implemented under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The Moon Creek Reclamation Project is located on the East Fork of Moon Creek within the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, about five miles northeast of Kellogg, Idaho, in Shoshone County. The project site encompasses approximately 20 acres, and a 3,300 feet long segment of Moon Creek, a third-order perennial stream. The Moon Creek site is in a popular recreation area located approximately three miles upstream of the creeks’ confluence with the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. A small community with about 50 homes is located in the downstream portion of the Moon Creek watershed, near the river confluence. Westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi) are another resident of Moon Creek. At the time of the development of the Moon Creek response action, Westslope cutthroat trout were listed as a sensitive species by the USFS Region 1. A walk-through survey of Moon Creek conducted by USFS biologists found that habitat in the upper sections of the stream was limited due to low water, lack of pools, and heavy metal concentrations.

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