Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Idaho
After proposing strict limits on heavy metals pouring from Silver Valley mining operations into the Coeur d'Alene River, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports it may relax some guidelines. U.S. Sen.Mike Crapo condemned the action and a spokesman said the decision blindsided many of Idaho's officials, who have been working toward a settlement with the agency and the tribe for nearly three months. The senator said it also cripples the state's effort to develop a cleanup plan without a federal Superfund listing. Mining companies celebrated cautiously over the change which stems from studies that show the water hardness in the South Fork varies with its seasonal flows. Metals become less toxic in harder water so EPA can relax on metals limits during low and average flows.