Stories in this Regional News Roundup are excerpted from weekly newspapers from around the region. This is part one, with part two set to appear in Sunday’s Tribune.
KOOSKIA — It was about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30, when Kamiah resident Missy Sanford found something that you don’t usually see at the car wash. It was a white box containing cremated human remains (cremains) next to the trash cans adjacent to the Kooskia Car Wash.
The plain white box has the words “In Loving Memory of Tammy Lynn Collins,” along with the birth and death dates.
“There were three or four boxes of photo albums and such stacked by the trash can,” said Sanford. “The photo album is what first caught my eye. I picked it up and looked inside to see if there was anybody in it that I knew.”
The album’s pictures were all strangers to Sanford. She didn’t recognize a single person or place. Then she spied the white box and once she saw the writing on the side, she decided to look in there for possible clues to the owner’s identity.
“I thought that maybe the white box contained more photos or mementos, but when I picked it up, it was really heavy,” said Sanford. “When I opened it and saw that this was a cremation, I was dumbfounded. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It really bothered me.”
Sanford thought leaving the cremains next to the trash can was really heartless and despicable. She snapped a photo of the ashes and posted it to Facebook.
“I was really busy and didn’t do anything like look up a name,” said Sanford. “I let the ashes lay where I had found them, hoping that someone had accidentally left them there while they were cleaning their car and that they would be looking for them.”
But as is so often true on Facebook, Sanford’s post began making the rounds. People kept commenting on the terrible nature of Sanford’s find. It wasn’t long before the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office was called, and the ashes were removed to the county coroner’s office in Grangeville. Meanwhile, Sanford received a message from Maryann Vessey, also a Kamiah resident, who told Sanford that they had located the daughter of Tammy Collins.
“When I saw her Facebook post about the ashes, it made me sick to my stomach” said Vessey. “I wondered how someone could do that. So, I Googled the name on the box, found the obituary and read that Tammy had a daughter and a son. I then did a search on Facebook and found the daughter, a Cheyanna Westerlund.”
A resident of Spearfish, N.D., Westerlund confirmed the cremains were her mother, but she was puzzled how they ended up at the Kooskia Car Wash and that the albums and ashes had been missing for quite some time. Westerlund had been living in Cascade, but decided to move back to Spearfish, where she was from. Somewhere on the road home between Lewiston and McCall, her van was broken into and a couple of storage totes were taken out of the back. The photo albums and the cremains were in the totes.
“My moms ashes have been missing for a whole year; I couldn’t forgive myself for that,” said Westerlund “It was something I just couldn’t let go of. I had lost my mom’s remains and thought how do I get them back? Then I see these posts on Facebook. It was a blessing, I’m grateful, but I am still disturbed on how someone could do something like this as it was clearly easy that someone could of gotten a hold of me if they had only tried.”
— Peter DuPre, The Clearwater Progress, (Kamiah), Thursday
Lake Cascade algae on the rise again
Lake Cascade could be less than two weeks away from another health advisory due to harmful algae blooms, a watchdog of the lake’s water quality said.
“Predicting when Lake Cascade will have a severe bloom is kinda like watching a tea kettle and trying to determine when it will boil,” said Lenard Long of Friends of Lake Cascade.
“All the ingredients are there, just the right combination of conditions are unknown,” Long said.
Central District Health has issued health warnings for dangerous levels of toxic cyanobacteria on Lake Cascade in the first week of September for the past two years.
Warmer, nutrient-rich conditions can lead to the bacteria growing exponentially, creating blooms that look like spilled paint, surface scum or foam.
To test for cyanobacteria in the lake, Long examines water samples and reviews satellite images of the lake. The images show a change in color when cyanobacteria grow in large numbers.
“Comparing satellite images of the lake from the past three years indicates we are better off than past years at this time but a severe bloom is still likely,” Long said.
Current sampling has confirmed the presence of the cyanobacteria in the lake, but only more comprehensive sampling by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality can confirm the levels of toxicity in the water, he said.
The cold snap and periods of high winds in late August, extended periods of dense smoke, water temperature and a lack of significant rainfall runoff this summer could explain why the bloom has not occurred on the same time scale as the past two years, Long said.
Exposure to high levels of the toxin can cause rashes, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or wheezing, among other symptoms. Children, pets and livestock are at increased risk of harmful symptoms.
“The value of clean water is often taken for granted until it’s gone and when people accept harmful algae blooms as normal, quality of life and local economies decline,” Long said.
The blooms are not a new occurrence in Lake Cascade.
In 1993, 23 cattle died after consuming lake water with a high concentration of toxins.
In 1994, a large number of fish died due to a toxic algae bloom, which robs the water of oxygen.
A watershed summit was planned for April to discuss the lake’s chronic cyanobacteria, among other topics, but the event was postponed due to COVID-19. No date has been set for a rescheduled summit.
— Max Silverson, The Star-News, (McCall), Thursday