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EPA Inviting Public To Hear Details Of Butte Superfund Deal

A timeline included in the conceptual agreement created for the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit shows proposed future plans for the Superfund cleanup.

A top official from the Environmental Protection Agency will be in Butte Wednesday to explain the proposed Superfund cleanup plan that was made partially public by a federal judge last week.

The final cleanup agreement, or consent decree, will cover most of the city and its land and water. The EPA has been negotiating it with state and local governments and industry in secret for the last 12 years. Now, those parties can share details of the plan for finishing a big portion of Butte’s Superfund cleanup.

The EPA is hosting two public meetings Wednesday at the Montana Tech Library Auditorium. One is from noon to 1:30 pm and the second is from 6-8 pm.

Joe Griffin, a retired hydrogeologist who used to work for the state Department of Environmental Quality on Superfund issues, says he’s excited to find out what the rest of the community thinks.

"I’m sure there are people who will be upset, and I hope there are people who think this is a good step forward," says Griffin.

Fact sheets EPA released last Friday reveal the big bullet points of what’s in the "conceptual agreement".

They outline the major cleanup actions, who’s responsible for them, and timelines for reaching a final agreement and completing the work. They cover everything from unreclaimed sites on the Butte hill to stormwater treatment to the removal of mine waste along the Silver Bow Creek corridor.

Griffin says there are still details that are vague, and he has some concerns, but he didn’t find any big surprises or red flags.

"I was impressed by how thorough it was. I guess I’m really pleased with the general progress that’s been made. It was more revealing than I expected," says Griffin.

More details about the Superfund meetings in Butte can be found here.

Nora Saks is a reporter and producer based in Butte, MT.
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