Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to respond Tuesday to criticism that public outreach on Superfund issues in the Butte area is lacking.
Julie DalSoglio, director of the agency's Montana office, said she'll speak on behalf of the EPA when it meets with a Butte volunteer group about the issue.
"I want to be sure we're being responsive to all the voices in Butte," DalSoglio told The Montana Standard Monday.
The EPA is scheduled to meet with Butte's Citizens Technical Environmental Committee, or CTEC, from
6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Butte Public Library, 226 W. Broadway. The meeting is open to the public.
DalSoglio says she's attending the meeting along with two EPA community outreach employees and Sara Sparks, the agency's
representative in Butte.
CTEC requested the meeting in an effort to improve the EPA's outreach efforts in Butte for Superfund issues, said Janice Hogan of CTEC.
The meeting follows a recent letter to DalSoglio, in which CTEC chides the agency for its efforts in Butte.
"We believe that EPA has failed to provide adequate opportunity for meaningful public involvement," the letter states in part.
The letter adds that Butte residents often feel left out of the decision-making process.
"This is further compounded by the public perception that EPA's actions are not publicly based, but rather that the agency is allied with ARCO and other primary responsible parties," according to the letter.
CTEC argues that greater collaboration is needed to achieve improved public outreach, "which the Butte community expects."
DalSoglio said she understands how some may believe the EPA hasn't had an open dialogue in some instances, especially with consent decree negotiations and pending litigation over Superfund cleanup.
Those legal issues have limited the EPA's ability to respond in some instances, she said.
"I understand why there is some frustration out there," DalSoglio said.
While she maintains the agency has worked to listen to the Butte residents, she says the EPA hasn't done a good enough job of returning to the Mining City to explain how those comments were incorporated into work plans.
She said the agency is looking into improving public outreach by working to explain complicated Superfund issues to the average citizen, and by outlining how projects in the Butte area impact the overall Clark Fork River basin.
"I think that is our challenge," DalSoglio said.
A "community involvement plan" for the Butte area was last modified over a decade ago, but DalSoglio says that document is being updated this summer.
CTEC also has ideas for improving public awareness of Superfund issues, including programs in low-income areas of Butte, improving its response to questions from the public, more concise explanations of Superfund issues and possibly through new programs similar to PitWatch.
CTEC further argues for more education and awareness to the Residential Metals Abatement Program, new education programs and public access to Superfund areas for activities such as sampling.
Hogan added that CTEC is calling for more coordination between federal and state agencies working on a variety of Superfund issues in the area.
"We're trying to get everybody to work together," she said.
- Reporter Justin Post may be reached at Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 496-5572.