Environmental History 
of the Spokane River

Heavy Metals

Since the late 1800s, Spokane has been a mining hub that attracted prospectors seeking mineral wealth in the Coeur d'Alene mountains. As a result, heavy metal pollution from the mines has negatively affected the Spokane River. There are many modern efforts to clean up the river and its surrounding watersheds due to the lasting damage.

In the 1880s, prospectors discovered gold, silver, and lead in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Later discoveries in the Okanogan Territory and Kootenay districts led to Spokane becoming one of many jumping-off points to the mines and it economically prospered from the influx of wealth.

Heavy metal pollution has a negative impact on the health of the Spokane River. The accumulation of heavy metal from mines in the Idaho region is weakening the Spokane River ecosystem, casing harm to not only the marine life, but to Spokane residents as well.
An EPA Superfund cleanup site was established at the Bunker Hill smelting site, and the revitalization of the Spokane river began. Removal of the heavy metal pollution has been a slow process, and is still occurring to this day.

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