In Butte Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has reached an historic agreement that could see a big part of the town removed from the Superfund list by 2024.
EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento announced the next step in cleaning up the toxic mess before a crowd of more than 60 people gathered in the Butte Public Archives.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and we can’t stop. This really isn’t the beginning of the end; maybe we’re a little past the end of the beginning, be we've got a lot of things left to do,” he said.
Benevento said that after more than a decade of secret negotiations between the mining company ARCO, the county, state, and the Environmental Protection Agency, all parties have reached an agreement on a path forward for the cleanup of Silver Bow Creek and the Butte Hill.
Benevento said the agreement is the result of an ultimatum he gave: either the parties could reach an agreement together, or the EPA would start handing out orders.
The deal has not yet been officially signed, but representatives from the state, ARCO, and Silver Bow County all joined Benevento at the meeting announcing the deal.
The details of the cleanup plan, and how much it will cost, were not released today. The negotiating parties are still under a gag order preventing them from discussing the specifics.
But Benevento says the EPA is committed to a more transparent, and public, process moving forward.
Northey Truthaway with the Restore Our Creek coalition says today is a big step forward.
"Think about it, I mean, Butte has been under Superfund for 35 years and now we’re starting to see some timelines for wrapping some of this up and delisting. So that’s kind of important."
The consensus plan announced today was praised by members of the public and environmental coalitions who were at today’s event. But, some said they’re concerned that they haven’t yet heard about specific details of the plan.
In December, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Silver Bow-Creek Butte-area Superfund site, as well as a site in Anaconda, were on a special emphasis list for the agency. Anaconda was not part of today’s announced agreement.
More details about how the consensus agreement will result in the Butte Hill and Silver Bow Creek being removed from the Superfund list and who will pay for it, are expected this summer.