Montana Public Radio

EPA Unveils Final Butte Superfund Cleanup Deal

Feb 13, 2020

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday unveiled a final cleanup deal for Butte, marking a crucial turning point in the decades-long Superfund saga of Montana’s Mining City.

More than a century of copper mining in Butte helped electrify America and win both world wars. But, it also left behind a huge toxic mess that earned the city a Superfund site designation in the 1980s.

In 2017, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency put Butte on its Superfund "emphasis list," vowing to move the languishing cleanup forward.  At the Finlen Hotel in Butte Thursday, EPA regional administrator Gregory Sopkin revealed that a final cleanup deal between EPA, the county, state, and former oil company Atlantic Richfield had been reached.

"Today we are announcing and we are celebrating a proposal that will help bring closure to nearly four decades of Superfund activity in Butte," Sopkin said.

In the long-awaited Superfund deal, Atlantic Richfield will spend more than $150 million to permanently clean up the rest of Butte’s contaminated soil and water, and build a 120 acre greenspace in the historic Silver Bow Creek corridor.

The legally and financially-binding Superfund settlement comes in the midst of President Trump’s proposal to drastically cut both the budget of EPA and the Superfund program.

Butte-Silver Bow’s council of commissioners has to now vote to approve the Superfund deal before it can be submitted to a federal court for review.

[Related: Dive deep into the past, present and future of one of America's most notorious Superfund sites, with Richest Hill.]