As a person who has actively followed Butte Superfund issues for thirty-five plus years, I would like to offer my thoughts on the recent Doug Benevento Region Eight Administrator meeting and the Agreement in Principle negotiated between the British Petroleum/Atlantic Richfield Company, EPA, the state and local government.
I love the renewed optimism of many involved and cautiously share it. I would just remind everyone to be careful. As David McCumber wrote in his Sunday editorial: “The devil is in the details."
I have personally visited with Doug Benevento, Andrew Mutter and Robert Molar of the EPA and I sincerely believe they are trying to do what is right. As a member of Silver Bow Creek Headwaters Coalition along with Ron Davis and Sister Mary Jo McDonald we are impressed with Mr. Benevento’s dedication and commitment to Butte and its cleanup. The proof will come however, when we see a totally clean and restored Butte Montana with a creek flowing through the middle of our town!
As a community we must now be more vigilant than ever in demanding and requiring that Butte receives the quality cleanup and restoration the community deserves and most importantly needs!
All of the involved parties know in addition to numerous Butte residents and local experts, what needs to be accomplished to complete a responsible Superfund cleanup of Butte and in particular Silver Bow Creek flowing through Butte. Hopefully the agreement addresses the following issues and they are included in the final document;
• Total removal of all contaminated tailings. Including; Parrot, Diggings East, Northside Tailings and the Blacktail Berm. Groundwater behind the Civic Center is more toxic than Berkeley Pit water.
• Recreating a quality meandering Silver Bow Creek flowing through the center of our town.
• Address the storm water issue in a positive manner by diverting and pumping the contaminated storm water to the Berkeley Pit and not creating what I call mosquito ponds to deal with the issue. .
• Restores the Creek and the area to a useful purpose where children can play and fish and the adults can enjoy the amenities of the cleanup and restoration as well.
• Deals responsibly with the Reverse French Drain. The State of Montana adamantly claims it is not capturing all of the contaminated groundwater.
• Deals responsibly with the cleanup of the Butte Hill and the Slag Canyon that have not been completed to date.
• The Berkeley Pit is now within five years of being pumped and treated and discharged to Silver Bow Creek in perpetuity.
While there is renewed community optimism, keep in mind, nothing was stated at the Benevento meeting to confirm and assure that these issues would be addressed in a responsible manner. For the past several years the Helena EPA representatives have publicly stated that Superfund work in Butte was 95% complete. Everyone involved knew that was not true, except for the EPA.
The EPA and local government will now proceed with a public comment process to address the document once it is finally negotiated. Unless major changes are implemented to the public input process, meaningful input will not been readily accepted. From my experience what has been negotiated in the Agreement in Principle, is “written in stone” and will not be changed!
If Butte does not receive the cleanup we deserve and need, I will not walk alone with a group going in the wrong direction. I will walk once again with my co-hearts in the Silver Bow Creek Headwaters Coalition — Sister Mary Jo McDonald and Ron Davis, with Jim Goetz by our side!