The lowest bid to excavate the Parrot tailings behind the Butte Civic Center came in Friday at $2.66 million, according to a state official.
Harley Harris, Natural Resource Damage Council director, said Monday that the range of bids ran between $2.66 million and $5.53 million. Harris said NRD is "really encouraged" by the bidding.
Seven construction companies threw their hats in the ring Friday. This bid is for the first phase of the project, which is primarily on the north side of the Butte Civic Center Road where the unused baseball field currently exists.
The winner of the bid will dig out the mining and smelting waste long buried behind the Civic Center. According to the state, removing the contamination will protect Silver Bow Creek.
That groundwater is “the most contaminated mine water in the state of Montana,” hydrogeologist Joe Griffin told The Montana Standard previously.
The Environmental Protection Agency has never agreed that the toxic waste needs to be dug up. Due to that conflict, the state chose to take the lead on the project and is sinking millions into it. The state money comes from funds awarded to Montana from a lawsuit with Atlantic Richfield Company to pay for restoration projects.
The overall cost of the project was estimated to come in around $31 million, according to Harris last year.
Harris said the NRD hopes to have dirt moving by June or July of this year.
NRD estimates that the state will pick the contractor by sometime next week and by the week of May 21, NRD will give the contractor a notice to proceed.
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What would happen next would be preliminary work, with the contractor putting up fencing around the construction area and doing site preparation, Harris said.
NRD had estimated the cost for this phase of the multi-step process to come in around $7 million, so the bid range appears favorable. But Harris said there will be additional expenses, including the cost of engineering as well as NRD’s administrative work.
Harris said NRD was “really encouraged” by the bidding.
“We’re very happy to be at this point,” Harris said. “It’s a big milestone.”
It’s taken two years to get here. Gov. Steve Bullock originally announced in 2015 that shovels would be moving dirt behind the Butte Civic Center the summer of 2016.
But various delays, including where the county’s vehicle and maintenance shops would go and where the “dirty dirt” would be deposited, held up the process for close to a year. Another year went by before NRD had all the contracts in place it needed to get started.
Harris said that while the state looks to give the award to the lowest bidder, there are various additional criteria the companies have to meet. Some of those requirements include the company's ability to get bonding, insurance, ability to meet schedule and do the work safely. So the lowest bidder is not automatically the winner, Harris said.
The state's "Parrot team" is assessing the various requirements this week.
“Things should happen pretty quickly. We want to get someone out there this summer and get them started,” Harris said.