Gem State Roundup

Idaho’s health department warns of lead exposure in Lemhi County

By: - June 23, 2023 4:00 am

Gilmore townsite is a former mining town in rural Lemhi County. (Courtesy of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality)

The Gilmore townsite in Lemhi County has high levels of lead in surface soil, and people who live in the area or visit multiple times a year are exposed to lead at levels that can cause harm, a new report has found, according to a press release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Exposure to the contaminated soil for as little as one day per week for three months poses a significant health risk, the agency said.

The lead contamination at Gilmore is the result of large-scale hard rock mining operations, and wind and water erosion of mining waste. The mines operated in the early 1900s and primarily produced lead and silver ore.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality took samples in 2016 and 2017 and found high concentrations of lead in the soil at the Gilmore townsite. At some locations, lead soil levels are more than 50 times greater than what is considered safe for residential areas.

The evaluation and report conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will be posted on the agency’s website on June 26.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry — part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and partner agencies will provide new information about the contamination, during two public meetings:

  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 27 at the Leadore Community Center
  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 28 at the Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation building.

There also will be a meeting of the agencies that is open to the public, at 1 p.m. June 26 in Room 101 of the Lemhi County Brooklyn Annex in Salmon.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare are working together to inform the public about the risk of exposure, and are working with the local government to implement short term and long term actions for the townsite. They want the public’s engagement and feedback, they said in the press release.

For more information regarding the public meetings or about the survey conducted among gilmore landowners, visit the Department of Environmental Quality’s website.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Moesha Aplicano Burnham
Moesha Aplicano Burnham

Moesha Aplicano Burnham was interning through Voces Internship of Idaho, and previously interned with Boise Weekly. In high school, Moesha was the Editor-in-Chief of the school's Newspaper, and has loved writing since she could pick up a pencil. She was born and raised in Boise, Idaho, and deeply enjoys learning and writing about local news. In her free time, Moesha enjoys hiking, listening to podcasts, and spending time with her cat.