Remember the most polluted site in Sandpoint? It’s still a thing.

Remember the most polluted site in Sandpoint? It’s still a thing.

This post has been edited since it’s publication in the Sandpoint READER on 9/7/17.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! More importantly, pentachlorophenol (PCP) continues to flow into Sand Creek and something needs to be done. PCP is classified as a probable human carcinogen and is associated with renal and neurological effects. It’s not a substance that you would want to voluntarily connect with. It’s also one of the groundwater contaminants originating from the Joslyn property north of Super 1 on the west side of Boyer Avenue, which is where wood preservation operations were formally conducted.

The soils in Sandpoint are full of clay and don’t drain very well due to clay’s high water-holding capacity. This means that our groundwater mingles with our surface water on a regular basis and any groundwater contaminants are free to flow during precipitation events. The Joslyn property is chock full of groundwater contaminants and in this case, PCP is mixing with the surface water that flows directly into Sand Creek – a major tributary to Lake Pend Oreille.

When we first started testing the stormwater that enters Sand Creek a few years ago, we had no idea what to expect. Our discovery of PCP was not only unexpected, but also incredibly troubling. Sand Creek is a popular destination for boaters, kayakers, paddle boarders and yes – swimmers. Having a probable carcinogen flowing into Sand Creek threatens the health and safety of local recreationalists as well as visitors to our community.

With continued monitoring, we’ve noticed that the concentrations of PCP in stormwater are increasing. Our earliest test indicated a relatively minor amount of PCP at 0.84 micrograms per liter. Now, our most recent lab tests indicated a whopping 21.1 micrograms per liter of PCP. That level far exceeds Idaho’s chronic and acute water quality criteria set to protect aquatic life. We are mission-bound to fight this issue and make sure your local waterways remain swimmable, fishable, and drinkable.

At present, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is charged with enforcing the cleanup of the Joslyn Manufacturing Company’s polluted property. There have been some efforts at remediation, such as the installation of an “asphalt cap”, which did not actually prevent pollutant transfer between groundwater and surface water. We would like to see more robust remediation strategies implemented sooner rather than later, but unfortunately it is a complex process.

We’ve shared our data with DEQ, but for them to use information from a third party, we must collect data under a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Thankfully, we’ve done this before for our Water Quality Monitoring Program. However, this is going to be financially tough on our organization. Without going into all the details, this requirement will nearly triple the costs of monitoring for PCP in Sand Creek. We need to keep testing to determine if the problem is improving, getting worse, or staying the same. This information is critical to the health of Sand Creek and everything that calls it home. The fish, the birds, the otters, the plankton, the bottom dwellers, and you!

We need your help. We need to triple the amount of dollars going into monitoring the stormwater that is coming off this site and surrounding areas. Initially, we were spending $325 per sample event. But now we need to devote $975 per sample event with the addition of quality control samples in order to properly monitor how much PCP is flowing into Sand Creek.

Please help us keep Sand Creek swimmable, fishable, and drinkable for future generations. This is your home, your community, and your water. Please help us by donating today. Feel free to drop by our office or give us a call at 208-597-7188 with your questions or comments. We would love to hear from you!