Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Howard Preserve haunted by old dump

Cleanup to be completed by Halloween

Express Staff Writer

The popular Howard Preserve on the Big Wood River in Bellevue gets a lot of use on hot summer afternoons.

In late October, it becomes downright spooky when the city's Halloween Haunted Forest attracts thousands of people to the densely wooded area.

It turns out the Howard Preserve is haunted by its past in other ways. An abandoned dump site there, dating from the 19th century, contains lead and other toxic substances.

This summer, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will start a cleanup of the old dump site in time for the Haunted Forest to take place on schedule.

Three years ago, heavy metals, including lead, showed up in core sample tests conducted by the DEQ. Toxic "hot spots" near the irrigation canal and in the Haunted Forest area were mapped by DEQ Brownfields Manager Aaron Scheff and presented to the City Council last week.

Scheff said the toxins were likely the result of by-products in the manufacture of glass, ceramics and metal objects made generations ago.

"Right now it is not a great place for people to recreate in," he said.

Scheff proposed digging out a 6-inch layer of soil and debris from a 2,000 square foot area and re-filling it with clean soil. The department will then re-seed the area and keep it off limits until the grass and plants take root.

"The Howard Preserve is one of the jewels of Bellevue," said Councilman Brett Gelskey, in favor of the plan. The council voted unanimously in favor of the plan, which will begin in September and take two weeks to complete.

The cleanup will be paid for with a federal grant acquired by Scheff for the purpose and will not cost the city a penny. The city is considering establishing a "land covenant" for the contaminated area that will prohibit residential development and water extraction in perpetuity.

In other Bellevue news:

· The council was advised by the Friends of the Howard Preserve last week that people have been drinking illegally in the preserve.

· The council approved a Kiwanis Club "Biker Barb-que" at Memorial Park on Aug. 1 to benefit Camp Rainbow Gold. Up to 300 bikers are expected for the event.

Tony Evans:

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