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> Many of the mine tailings were dumped directly into the Coeur d’Aléne River and its tributaries, which were polluted with high levels of sulfur dioxide, lead, and other metals. The water in the river turned opaque gray, earning the stream the nickname “Lead Creek.” An estimated 100 million tons of arsenic, cadmium, and zinc were released into the air, along with 30,000 tons of lead. During the 1970s, when the smelter was still operating, children living in nearby areas began displaying very high blood lead levels. Approximately 26% of the two-year olds in the region had dangerously high levels of lead in their blood.
In 1983, the Bunker hill smelter was added to the National Priorities List by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. As of 2007, the EPA had spent $200 million attempting to remediate the site, much of which was spent removing contaminated topsoil from residential areas.