Montana Public Radio

mining

L to R, Butte Superfund Activist Fritz Dailey, US Senator Steve Daines and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at the confluence of Blacktail and Silver Bow Creeks in Butte, September 7, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited the Superfund sites in Butte and Anaconda Friday. The last time the head of the agency did so was 28 years ago.

Andrew Wheeler was named acting administrator of the EPA in July, following the departure of Scott Pruitt amid ethics scandals.

The Libby eagle sits above downtown Libby, Montana.
Nicky Ouellet

In about a year, the Environmental Protection Agency will leave Libby, where it’s worked for the last two decades to clean up asbestos contamination, a lethal byproduct leftover from W.R. Grace’s vermiculite mine. But locals in Lincoln County say the EPA packing up doesn’t necessarily mean cleanup work is done.

Bill MacGregor and Janice Hogan are the vice president and coordinator of the Citizens Technical Environmental Committee in Butte, seen in this photo from June 6, 2018.
Nora Saks

Billie Richardson is chatting with customers at Suited For Success, a small non-profit thrift store she runs in Uptown Butte. Richardson is 74 years-old. She was raised here, and for a while, moved around.

"I’ve lived a lot of places but I always come back because this is home," says Richardson. "Butte’s the last best place.”

A screenshot from the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Rock Creek Project. Published March 2018.
Kootenai National Forest / USDA

The Kootenai National Forest approved the first phase of the Rock Creek silver and copper mine near Noxon on Tuesday, but the proposal’s fate remains uncertain due to a legal dispute with state regulators.

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.

A portion of the area north and west of Deer Lodge where Montana's DEQ plans to start work this fall
Montana DEQ

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality is preparing to haul 20,000 semi-truck loads of contaminated soil from the banks of the Clark Fork River in and around Deer Lodge.

Headframe of the Original Mine in Butte, MT.
Nora Saks

The Environmental Protection Agency is about to launch its second study of public health concerns related to Butte’s Superfund sites. But When locals found out the scope of the plan at a public meeting Tuesday, some were disappointed.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Republican lawmakers failed to get enough support to call a special session to consider referenda to counter two proposed ballot initiatives.

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.

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