Montana Public Radio

Superfund

Libby Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The state of Montana was slated to take control of part of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 1. But because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, that transfer is being postponed indefinitely.

After reporting on Superfund for several years, it’s obvious to me that everyone here wants the best possible cleanup for their town. And, there are very different definitions of what that means.

A lot of folks in Butte are fired up about bringing a stretch of the long-dead Silver Bow Creek back to life. And on the surface, I get it. Superfund is huge and complicated, full of thousands of pages of technical documents, and abstract legal requirements like water quality standards. Whereas a beautiful free flowing stream? That’s something tangible, easy to get jazzed up about.

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.

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

Public meetings over a newly released agreement guiding the remainder of the Anaconda Superfund cleanup will be held over the first two weeks of March.

Anaconda smelter stack as seen in 2007.
(PD)

Anaconda-Deer Lodge County has reached a nearly $30 million agreement with a former oil producer to clean up an old smelter site, according to the Montana Standard.

Butte Superfund Coordinator Jon Sesso speaks during the event unveiling EPA's final cleanup plan for Butte, Feb. 13, 2020.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency last week announced a final Superfund deal for Butte, detailing a roadmap they say will permanently clean up one of the most intractable Superfund sites in the country.

Butte Superfund Coordinator Jon Sesso speaks during the event unveiling EPA's final cleanup plan for Butte, Feb. 13, 2020.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

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.

Uptown Butte, MT.
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

This season on Richest Hill you’ve been hearing all about what mining meant for Butte, the toxic legacy it left behind, and about sprawling efforts to clean it up that have spanned more than 30 years.

And this week, something big is gonna happen.

EPA Region 8 toxicologist Charlie Partridge (R) told Butte's Board of Health during a Feb. 5, 2020 meeting that the federal agency does not think the results of a study on metals in baby poop show a public health emergency in Butte.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

There’s an ongoing debate in Butte about public health and exposure to heavy metals in the environment from historic and current mining operations. The most recent controversy flared up this week between scientists and the Environmental Protection Agency, over the contents of dirty diapers.

Libby Superfund map.
US Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency says another Libby Asbestos Superfund Site unit is ready to be delisted. The public has 30 days to comment on delisting the former vermiculite export plant.

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