Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Former Priest River City Dump - Priest River

Priest River Dump 1The former Priest River city dump operated from the early 1900s to mid-1970s.

See additional photos of the project

The former Priest River city dump operated from the early 1900s through the mid-1970s. No historical manifests documenting the material placed in the dump were found. Once or twice a year a controlled burn of the dump was undertaken. Wastes that did not burn were pushed over the slope and occasionally covered with dirt. In 1973, the city dump site was closed. 

Since 2005, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Brownfields Program has worked with the community of Priest River responding to citizen complaints, completing environmental site assessments, site characterizations, risk analysis, and waste volume estimates on the former city dump. 

Steve Gill, DEQ Brownfields Specialist, had heard of Horizons Idaho, a University of Idaho (UI) extension program to assist small, rural communities with alleviating poverty and achieving sustainable prosperity. In May 2009, Gill approached the UI’s Building Sustainable Communities Initiative (BSCI) group, who agreed to take on Priest River’s master plan as a project. Over the next year, the UI’s efforts included SWOT and Future’s Game workshops, a case study of similar rural communities that had reached their economic goals, a new community garden, and waterfront development alternatives for the former city dump.

In 2008, the Priest River Urban Renewal Agency (PRURA) submitted a Brownfields Cleanup Grant to EPA for the former city dump; however, the site was not selected for funding. To qualify for cleanup funding, the city of Priest River completed a fee-simple transfer of the former city dump property to the Priest Community Forest Connection (PCFC), a local 501c3 experienced in federal grants. PCFC entered into DEQ’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) and was awarded a subgrant for $400,000 from the Reuse Idaho Brownfields Coalition, comprised of Idaho’s six economic development districts and DEQ, via the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act to clean up the former city dump site. 

Priest River Dump 2
On July 6, 2011, the first machines pulled into the former city dump and the restoration began. During the next five weeks, Waldo Construction of Post Falls removed the large debris, recontoured the slope, stockpiled and sorted topsoil, and built a trail to the lower wetlands area. Stone Creek Landscape Design and Development of Priest River installed fencing, temporary sprinklers, placed erosion matting and wattles on the slope, planted native shrubs, and hydroseeded the site. Overall, eleven employees were on the ground, half of which were from the immediate area. All of the contractors used local accommodations and purchased supplies from local companies.

During the final walk-through on August 12 the project was determined complete. This quick-paced project inspired teamwork among all those involved and energized an entire community. PCFC has submitted the final VCP completion report to DEQ which, upon acceptance, will allow PCFC to apply for a Certificate of Completion and Covenant Not-To-Sue under the VCP.

Priest River Dump 3During the final walk-through on August 12, 2011, the project was determined complete.

Summary of Previous Assessments

In early 2000, responding to citizen complaints, DEQ and EPA investigated a mercury release at the old city dump that led to an emergency response cleanup. In April 2006, DEQ received a Brownfields Assessment Request for the Priest River Landfill site from the city of Priest River. A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) was conducted on the site in August 2006. The Phase I ESA indicated that the site may have potential human health and environmental impacts and recommended that a Phase II ESA for the site be conducted. In October 2006, DEQ’s contractor conducted a Phase II ESA on the site. In June 2007, utilizing the Phase II ESA data, DEQ completed a Risk Assessment follow-up with a Clean-up Option Study in December 2007. In February 2010, an updated Phase I ESA revealed the same recognized environmental conditions as in the first Phase I ESA completed in 2006.

Priest River Dump 4

Junk Art Sculpture

While restoring the old city dump, a heap of materials were picked from the site and stored at PCFC’s office. In 2012, PCFC approached Priest River Lamanna High School and pitched a sculpture project using the old city dump junk. Art teacher Joni Dirks, metals teacher Jake Stark ,and district counselor Betty Gardner jumped on board and the Junk Art Sculpture project was born. By December, honors art students created 10 designs and Cody Magee’s design of three deer was chosen as the sculpture that best represented what the restored site meant to this community.

Priest River Landfill Art

Next Steps for the Community

PCFC is collaborating with the city on the next phase with the vision of gaining Priest River waterfront access through a nature park.

Staff Contacts

Brownfields Program Coordinator
Eric Traynor
DEQ State Office
Waste Management and Remediation Division
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
(208) 373-0565

Related Media

Video: Designing with Vision: Priest River Idaho - University of Idaho student project about the town's history, identity, and pressing needs.

Related Pages

Brownfields Assessment Program

Brownfields Grants

Voluntary Cleanup Program