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Know the West

Getting the lead out

  The nonprofit Inland Empire Public Lands Council, based in Washington state, broke new ground in public outreach when it dropped 10,000 video cassettes on Spokane Valley doorsteps in May. It produced the 10-minute video, "Get the LEAD out!" to alert residents to the legacy of toxins from mining in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene watershed. "We want citizens to urge Washington state politicians to get involved in what is happening with the pollution that mining companies have left us upriver in northern Idaho," says council organizer Sam Mace. Public interest since the video barrage has been high.

"We are still sending out a half-dozen videos a day in response to requests," says council director Mark Solomon. Not every response has been flattering, however. The Spokesman-Review in Spokane accused environmentalists of encouraging "lead scare" and "divisiveness." The editorial also criticized the Washington State Department of Ecology for funding the $38,500 video campaign. Solomon says that no general tax money was used; the money came from surcharges paid to the state by companies that use hazardous substances. On a more laudatory note, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer likened the council's effort to a successful regional effort in 1992 to clean Chesapeake Bay: "That seems a far more promising approach than letting Idaho go it alone." For a copy of the video, write the Inland Empire Public Lands Council at P.O. Box 2174, Spokane, WA 99210; or call 509/838-4912; or e-mail at [email protected]