Montana Public Radio

Anaconda Smelter Stack

Anaconda smelter stack as seen in 2007.
(PD)

Anaconda residents are coming to grips with an agreement recently released to the public that will revamp the Superfund cleanup in the area. The public had their first chance to weigh-in on the proposed deal at  meeting this week.

ATSDR Medical officer Capt. Arthur Wendel (L) and health assessor David Dorian explain the nuances of the agency's exposure investigation at a public meeting at Anaconda High School. Oct 30, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Federal investigators that study public health risks at Superfund sites had good news for Anacondans this week. At a meeting on Wednesday, they reported that the amount of lead and arsenic in residents' bodies are about the same as the rest of the country.

Wednesday the EPA released the changes it wants to make to the existing 1998 legal cleanup plan for a 170 square mile portion of the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site. The proposed changes are aimed at better protecting creeks from contaminated runoff and erosion.

Nora Saks

Wednesday night, Anacondans got a rare chance to speak directly about their experience with Superfund to the national office that investigates the Environmental Protection Agency. And most of what they had to say wasn’t complimentary.

Anaconda residents have attended countless Superfund meetings over the last 36 years. But unlike the others, this one wasn’t hosted by EPA.

Giant piles of slag sit on along Highway 1 on the way into Anaconda, MT, July 11, 2018. Slag is a byproduct of copper smelting.
Nora Saks

A federal judge has lifted a gag order on the Anaconda Superfund cleanup. That means that after more than a decade of secrecy, Anaconda residents will soon be able to learn some details about the Superfund cleanup deal in the works for the Smelter City.

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

Anaconda residents are one step closer to finding out more details about the final Superfund cleanup deal and plan that’s been under wraps for the last four months.

Cathy Price retired to Anaconda ten years ago, and decided to get tested for lead and arsenic. September 14, 2018.
Nora Saks

Over the weekend, the federal agency that investigates human health risks at Superfund sites offered free lead and arsenic testing in Anaconda. They collected blood and urine samples from two hundred willing locals. The tests will reveal if they’ve recently been exposed to dangerous amounts of heavy metals, and how.

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

The federal agency that investigates health risks at Superfund sites is in Anaconda this coming weekend offering free arsenic and lead testing to the first 200 people to sign up.

Results from this study could influence the final cleanup deal currently being negotiated for the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site.

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.