Flipping through travel planners and vacation ads, southeast Idaho sounds much like the glorious west of old. A wild untarnished space, home to elk, moose, deer, and many other species of wildlife, with hundreds of miles of rivers and creeks, all bursting with wild native trout. It is. Or at least was.
Editor's note: Photographer, climber and family man Jeremiah Watt offers today's story for Cleanest Line readers. He writes about a corner of our country not often visited - and how the area's blessing of desolation is the very thing that has allowed it to become home to a mind-blowing number of Superfund sites.
Today, it is home to 17 Superfund sites, thanks to phosphate mining giants Simplot, Agrium, Monsanto and Rhodia. The phosphate here is primarily used as fertilizer and the herbicide RoundUp. Currently 16,987 acres have been mined with an additional 7,340 acres slated for development. In addition 15,000 acres have been leased and 50,000 acres are identified as containing economically viable phosphate reserves. In total 2,500 square miles – an area larger than Rhode Island - have the potential to be permanently scarred or destroyed from the effects of phosphate mining. Ninety-five percent of this land belongs to you and I.
[Sunrise on the Blackfoot River. Photo: © Jeremiah Watt]