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Butte activists want poor neighborhoods to receive attention in mine waste cleanup

Posted at 3:19 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 17:19:44-05

BUTTE - As Butte awaits the release of the consent decree that will outline the plan to clean up a century’s worth of mine waste, some community leaders hope it does more.

“I think EPA needs to make a special effort to consider the needs, the health needs of low-income citizens,” said John Ray with Citizens for Labor and Environmental Justice.

With many poor neighborhoods, Butte is considered an environmental justice area. While the Superfund cleanup plan is preparing to get underway, activists note that the EPA’s accepted levels of contamination in certain areas are often more harmful to low-income people than more affluent people.

“Because they have compromised immune systems, they tend to have lifestyle issues, diet issues; they can’t get access because of money to good food, they have lack of access to healthcare, they often live in substandard housing,” said Ray.

In an area like the Greeley neighborhood where 60 percent of the residents live at the poverty level, it’s important that the environmental health concerns of this neighborhood are not overlooked.

“Focus not only on the consent decree, but also on what can be done relative to active mining, mine waste, what’s in the soil, the air to make Butte a safer, healthier place in which to live and work,” said R. Edward Banderob with the Greeley Neighborhood Group.

Groups like Action Inc. and the Butte Health Department plan to work with citizens in poor areas to deal with environmental issues as the cleanup proceeds.