BUTTE – On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency released plans on the work toward the final cleanup of Butte Priority Soils.
The EPA, currently negotiating the plan with the state, Butte-Silver Bow County, and ARCO-BO, asked that there be one fundamental change, seven significant changes, and five minor modifications.
The changes include waiving the water quality standards for Montana and replacing it with the national standard, create basins to hold the contaminated stormwater flowing off of Butte Hill, reroute Silver Bow Creek away from Slag Canyon, metal levels be tested from different samples of soil, and to remove from Silver-Bow Creek and Black Tail Creek.
However, even with the changes, the EPA won’t meet the Montana Department of Environmental Quality standards for copper and zinc.
“Can we get there?” said EPA remedial project manager Nikia Greene. “Can we meet those standards? The unfortunate thing is we can do everything that is practicable and we still won’t get there.”
Greene said meeting the state standards would be virtually impossible because of Butte’s mining history and nature. To move towards delisting in 2024, the EPA proposes the standards be changed from statewide to national.
The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes and whether or not the public supports the changes.
Butte Chief Executive Dave Palmer said they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is the first step to defining what works for the future and how we can enforce that to be completed and make possible everything that is possible here in Butte,” said Butte Data Administrator Julia Crain.
Deputy County Attorney Molly Maffei said she believes it’s a good thing to move beyond the Superfund and forward as a community.
Butte Superfund Operations Manager Eric Hassler said Butte is a highly mineralized area and that it was possible the standards would have never been met just due to the naturalization of the hill.
“I am offended by that, I am offended,” said Butte resident Fritz Daily. “I mean I think that Butte deserves the best clean-up possible and to give us a clean-up where the only way that the EPA and the state and the local government can solve the problem is by reducing the discharge standards of the creek. And that is just wrong.”
Palmer added officials went into the negotiation with three things in mind.
“Protect the taxpayers, protect the environment and protect human health, and we have met all three of those requirements. So I think that the negotiating team is doing a good job and I think Butte people should be happy with what is coming out of it.”
The public has the chance to comment on April 23 and May 23 at the Montana Tech Campus Library from 6-8:30 p.m. Comments can also be submitted on the EPA’s website
-Reported by Mederios Babb/MTN News