After the Restore Our Creek Coalition and The Montana Standard co-sponsored a well-attended rally two weeks ago at the Covellite Theatre, many of the participants received excellent feedback and support from community members, who say they appreciate what the coalition is trying to accomplish – quite simply, to push the parties to Butte’s long-running Superfund cleanup to remove the tailings, get it done, restore Silver Bow and Blacktail creeks.
But it would be disingenuous not to point out that there is another narrative out there.
“Raising a ruckus about the cleanup is reinforcing Butte’s negative image,” we’ve heard. “You should be putting out a positive message about how much has been done, not focusing on what hasn’t been done. It’s just going to make it that much harder for Butte to overcome the perception that the town is a toxic dump.”
While we understand the genesis of such thinking, we must respectfully disagree.
Yes, much has been done. We should be grateful for the remediation and restoration of many areas in town. But asking for the job to be completed correctly is not negative. It’s positive.
Without a true cleanup, Butte economic development efforts will not succeed. And without grassroots involvement – loud involvement – decision-makers can be counted on to opt for the easiest, most expedient conclusion.
We won’t improve our external image or our internal fortunes by ignoring the problems and challenges that are set before us with the cleanup, or by glossing over the truth.
With the new determination on the part of the EPA to get to consensus, the window is closing fast. We need to make our feelings known, clearly and emphatically.
Turning the center of our town from a problem into an attraction will go a long way to assuring Butte’s future. And it’s not something we can simply not do and say we did.
We believe that the men and women who made Butte – who came here, worked the mines, created families, created wealth and created community, at great personal risk and sacrifice – would insist that corners not be cut, that bureaucrats and politicians not look the other way and take the easy way out. They would insist on a cleanup that is truly protective of human health and the environment.
We have a responsibility to them – and to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren – to see this through.