Copper Layers in the Slag

In this file photo, salt deposits can be seen on the slag walls in Slag Wall Canyon west of South Montana Street. Butte is still waiting to see some of the details of the agreement in principle reached in late January between the EPA, the state, and all of the responsible parties on the Butte Hill cleanup.

The temporary government shutdown won’t delay the impending critical decision about the Butte Hill cleanup that Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Doug Benevento is expected to announce Friday.

Andrew Mutter, director of Denver EPA’s Office of Communication and Public Involvement, said Monday that Benevento is visiting Butte "as originally planned." The Senate voted 81-18 Monday to end the shutdown.

Benevento will hold a public meeting from 12 to 2 p.m. Friday at the Butte Public Archives, 17 W. Quartz St., to announce the decision.

While Atlantic Richfield, the primary responsible party, has done much work since EPA declared Butte and Silver Bow Creek a Superfund site in the 1980s, much is left to do. Questions remain concerning the historic mining and smelting waste along the Parrot corridor, from Texas Avenue to George Street. There is also the Slag Wall Canyon, vegetative caps on the Butte Hill that need to be redone or were never done and Buffalo Gulch at South Montana Street, which some critics think is likely a source of metals getting into the creek.

When Benevento visited Butte last November, he said he hoped to announce a final agreement with all the agencies and responsible parties on the Butte Hill. If EPA is successful with the agreement by Friday, then Butte will learn at some point if all of those issues are being addressed.

The confidential negotiations for that agreement have been ongoing for 12 years.

If EPA and all the other parties involved cannot agree to the legal agreement “in principle” by Friday, then EPA is expected to order Atlantic Richfield Company, the primary responsible party, to do more work.

The last time EPA ordered Atlantic Richfield was in 2011 and not all of that work has been completed.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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