Editor's note: This story was corrected on at 12:34 p.m. on Feb. 11 to reflect the following correction. The proposal Ed Banderob presented to Wednesday's Council of Commissioners was not "his" proposal but the proposal of the Greeley Neighborhood Community Development Corporation Inc., and The GNCDCInc. - Habitability - Mining Impact Task Force. It was also not "his" request but the request of the Greeley Neighborhood Community Development Corporation Inc., and The GNCDCInc. - Habitability - Mining Impact Task Force.
The county’s program that eliminates heavy metals from attics and soils may expand into the Greeley neighborhood, according to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA’s Nikia Greene, project manager for the Butte Hill, said in a letter to Ed Banderob, president of a Greeley neighborhood group, that EPA, Atlantic Richfield Company, and the county are discussing expanding the county program that gets contamination out of people’s attics and yards.
Rich Mylott, EPA public affairs specialist for Region 8, said via email that the agency "is encouraged that the expansion will occur and further discussions are scheduled in the coming weeks. If the discussions are successful, the expansion will include the Greeley Neighborhood. Residential yards in the Greeley Neighborhood would be sampled by request and remediated if they are above the established lead and arsenic action levels for the (Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit) proposed expansion."
Eric Hassler, the county’s Superfund operations manager, said the change that would allow the county to remediate both yards and attics in Greeley and possibly other parts of the Flat would likely be a change that would come with the consent decree.
Banderob gave the EPA letter to the Council of Commissioners Wednesday as part of the Greeley Neighborhood Community Development Corporation Inc., and The GNCDCInc. - Habitability - Mining Impact Task Force's request to talk to the council about the Greeley Neighborhood Community Development Corporation Inc., and The GNCDCInc. - Habitability - Mining Impact Task Force's proposal that the Department of Environmental Quality set an air quality standard specific for Butte.
Banderob and other residents are concerned about what might be in the dust that they say routinely blankets the Greeley neighborhood, directly south of Montana Resources’ mining operation.
Dave Klemp, DEQ air quality bureau chief, said that for a town to have its own air quality standard would be pretty unusual. The state sets its own standards, and part of that standard is more stringent than the federal standard.
But Klemp said that to change any portion of the standard, there is a very rigorous process including peer-reviewed health studies and analysis before any part of the air quality standard can be altered.
One local Montana Tech professor, Katie Hailer, and a professor at the University of South Carolina, Suzanne McDermott, have performed studies on Butte that have brought up questions about what’s in the air and how is it impacting residents. But such a change would need much more study.
Banderob has been going before the council repeatedly for the last few months to request support from the county for various proposals designed to protect the Greeley neighborhood, directly south of MR’s active mining operation. One of the Greeley neighborhood group’s earlier requests is that the county support their effort to get EPA and DEQ to turn Greeley into a specially designated unit of Butte’s larger Superfund site. Banderob has said he thinks this could make money available to better control storm water in the neighborhood.
A change in operable units seems relatively unlikely so far down the road of the Superfund process. At one time, it was thought locally that the West Side Soils operable unit of the Superfund site included the Flat. EPA said in 2017 that it did not. Nevertheless, Greene said in his letter to Banderob that he is investigating the areas of Butte around the Butte Hill, and that includes Greeley. EPA said via email Friday that Greene's work on that will begin this spring.