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Feds order more Superfund work

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A federal agency is ordering more Superfund cleanup to begin sooner rather than later in the Mining City.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a “Unilateral Administrative Order” to mandate work in 2011 and 2012, even before a formal agreement is reached among the entities involved in negotiations.

The order comes as the EPA, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Butte-Silver Bow, Atlantic Richfield and several railroads continue talks on how to move forward with Superfund cleanup.

A 2006 Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit Record of Decision, or ROD, outlined future Superfund cleanup and talks between the responsible parties begin in 2008 seeking to reach a formal agreement, known as a consent decree, for the work.

But after several years of talks, a number of issues including complex surface and ground water cleanup are unresolved, said EPA attorney Henry Elsen.

The EPA issued its administrative order effective Sept. 6 seeking to keep Superfund cleanup moving forward in Butte during the consent decree negotiations, he said.

“We didn’t want things to stall out,” he said.

Elsen stressed that consent decree negotiations are not stalled and will continue despite the EPA order.

Butte-Silver Bow leaders are reviewing the order and its accompanying work plan to determine what impact it has on the local government. The Citizens Technical Environmental Committee of Butte has scheduled an Aug. 16 public meeting on the order.

Under Superfund law, the EPA has authority to order cleanup even before consent decree negotiations are complete.

This order sets out legal guidelines for the Residential Metals Abatement Program, or RMAP, operating through the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department for cleanup of yards and attics in Butte, storm water controls, capping improvements, treatment lagoons and surface water protection.

The order requires all yards within the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit to be sampled and assessed within 10 years through RMAP, and requires their remediation within 20 years.

It additionally requires that RMAP address attic dust, non-mining lead sources such as paint, medical monitoring and community outreach.

For storm water controls, Elsen said the agency is requiring new devices in the storm water system to reduce contamination before water reaches Silver Bow Creek.

New sediment catch basins, curb and gutter and storm water system clean-out plans are required in the order.

All capped waste sites in Butte also must be evaluated and all capped waste not in compliance must then meet capping and vegetation standards.

Upgrades to the Lower Area One treatment lagoons off south Montana Street and the Metro Storm Drain System are further required as part of the order.

And to protect surface water, the agency is mandating the removal of contaminated areas near Silver Bow Creek near Montana Street and continuation of sediment removal to clean up mine waste in and around the creek.

Atlantic Richfield is the primary responsible party and will pay the lion’s share of cleanup costs, Elsen said.

The EPA plans to release a summary of the order on Aug. 10, and representatives from the agency are expected to attend CTEC’s Aug. 16 meeting in Butte, he said.

A technical consultant hired by CTEC is reviewing the order and accompanying documents in preparation for the meeting, said Suzzann Nordwick, president of the CTEC board of directors.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Thornton Building, Broadway and Wyoming, Uptown Butte.

“It should be a good opportunity for people to see where things stand and for people to get up to speed on this,” Nordwick said.



— Reporter Justin Post may be reached at


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