After 34 years, Anaconda’s schools will get tested for both lead and arsenic, said Anaconda-Deer Lodge Chief Executive Bill Everett.
The three active schools in Anaconda — Lincoln Elementary, Fred Moodry Middle School, and Anaconda High School — will be checked for both lead and arsenic in “any kind of closed space,” including the ceilings, the air ducts, and any possible air passage, Everett said.
The interiors of the schools have never been tested, Everett said. The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that. The agency says that during the initial investigation into the environmental degradation caused by 80 years of smelter smoke, EPA directed Atlantic Richfield Company to sample dust in the interiors, exteriors, and attics of homes because this posed the greatest risk to children.
Based on the data gleaned from that initial investigation, EPA concluded the interior of Anaconda’s schools didn’t need to be checked.
EPA checked the soils in Anaconda’s schools down to two inches for arsenic in the 1990s. EPA originally concluded from that soil testing that the school grounds did not require cleanup.
EPA never checked the schools or the school grounds for lead.
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“There’s been only minimal testing in the soil outside the schools. The tests were only for arsenic and were only down to two inches, which we’ve found now are truly irrelevant,” Everett said.
Everett has been pushing for change with Anaconda’s Superfund. Under his direction, the county tested Benny Goodman Park last spring and found a sand play area that showed high levels of both arsenic and lead in the sand and in the dirt below it. Not only did the sand area get cleaned up, but starting next spring, the entire park will be remediated.
Lincoln Elementary and Fred Moodry Middle School are the closest to the former smelter, which pushed out tons of dirty smoke on a daily basis for around 80 years. The smelter shut down in 1980.
Everett didn’t have an exact timeline for when the testing would begin, but both he and EPA anticipate the testing to begin this fall.
“This is definitely happening,” Everett said.