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Anaconda Montana

Public tours of the Anaconda Smelter Stack are being offered to celebrate the stack's 100th anniversary. August 9, 2018.
Nora Saks

If you’ve ever driven through Southwest Montana on I-90, you’ve probably noticed the lone smoke stack standing sentinel near Anaconda. That’s the iconic Anaconda Smelter Stack - one of the tallest free-standing masonry structures in the world.

For over a century, the smelter processed copper ore from Butte, and the stack belched thick smoke out over the valley. The public has been forbidden from visiting it for nearly four decades. But this year, for it’s 100th anniversary, tours of the stack are being offered. I hopped on one Thursday.

EPA Region 8 Administrator Doug Benevento talks to MTPR's Nora Saks in Butte.
Eric Whitney

Last summer, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt established a Superfund Task Force, and named Butte and Anaconda as top priorities for completion of Superfund cleanups.

When Pruitt resigned last month, many in Montana wondered what that would mean here.

On the first anniversary of the Superfund Task Force, I sat down in Butte with Doug Benevento, the top administrator for EPA Region 8, to talk about what changes at the top mean for Montana.

L to R - Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Commissioner Terry Vermeire, County Chief Executive Bill Everett, EPA Region 8 Administrator Doug Benevento, State Budget Director Dan Villa,  Atlantic Richfield VP Patricia Gallery in Anaconda Tuesday night.
Nora Saks

Last night Anaconda residents got their first chance to hear about the conceptual Superfund cleanup agreement reached over the weekend with the Environmental Protection Agency, but few details were shared.

The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Over the weekend, the parties involved in Anaconda’s Superfund cleanup reached an “agreement in principle,” meeting the deadline set by the Environmental Protection Agency just in the nick of time. In April, an EPA regional administrator set a new deadline for a cleanup agreement of July 31.

That strategy worked. On Saturday night, the parties successfully reached a conceptual cleanup agreement for the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site.

EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento meeting with Anaconda residents on April 10, 2018
Nora Saks

The clock is ticking down for parties to reach a final cleanup agreement for Anaconda’s Superfund site. 

David Dorian, an environmental health specialist with ATSDR, discusses a new exposure investigation at a public meeting at Anaconda High School. July 11, 2018.
Nora Saks

A federal public health agency is starting a new investigation to find out if contaminants left behind from a century of copper smelting in Anaconda still pose a risk to human health.

The study was announced Wednesday at Anaconda High School in front of a crowd of about 40 residents, and will be trying to answer the question, "Are exposures to arsenic and lead at levels currently that could adversely affect people’s health?"

Anaconda smelter stack as seen in 2007.
(PD)

This week, federal, state and local public health officials will be in Anaconda to update residents on their plan for studying health concerns related to the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site.

Tom Laughlin of Anaconda, MT says he has an autoimmune disease and he's concerned about the health impacts of the old copper smelter in town.  He met with officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a public health listening sessi
Corin Cates-Carney

More than 35 years after the Anaconda copper smelter closed, federal health officials are partnering with state and local governments to visit the town and to listen to people’s health concerns possibly related to the toxic waste left behind.

From 1:30 to 7:30 Thursday afternoon at the Anaconda senior center, locals could stop by and talk to government scientists and doctors about their worries.

A boat carrying invasive zebra mussels was stopped at an Anaconda inspection station.
Montana Fish Wildife and Parks

A boat carrying invasive zebra mussels was stopped late last week at an Anaconda inspection station.

EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento meeting with Anaconda residents on April 10, 2018
Nora Saks

CORRECTION: This story was updated on April 12, 2018 to clarify the legal status of the Anaconda Superfund cleanup, see copy in bold below.    

The EPA’s top regional administrator set a new timeline for completing cleanup of the Anaconda Superfund site, speaking today in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Old Works Golf Course.

"We will start in complete de-listing parts of the Anaconda Superfund site this year, so that we can start to lift the stigma,” said Doug Benevento, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 office in Denver.

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