In Settlement with United States and Montana, Atlantic Richfield Agrees to Framework for Cleanup of Mining Contamination in Butte, Montana
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Justice Department, announced the release of the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit (BPSOU) consent decree. This document provides the framework for the continued cleanup of mining-related contamination to protect public health and the environment in Butte and Walkerville, Montana.
The consent decree requires Atlantic Richfield to undertake or finance over $150 million in cleanup actions, provide financial assurances for future cleanup actions, and provide enhanced community benefits through the implementation of end land use plans along the Silver Bow Creek Corridor.
Additionally, EPA Region 8 is releasing an amendment to the 2006 Record of Decision for the BPSOU that will expand cleanup efforts. The amendment will require the removal of contaminated tailings at the Northside and Diggings East Tailings areas as well as contaminated sediment and additional floodplain contamination from Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks. The amendment will also require the treatment of more contaminated storm water before it flows into the creeks, and the capture and treatment of additional contaminated groundwater. Once executed by the parties and entered by the court, the consent decree will implement this amended remedy.
The release of the consent decree will provide the commissioners of Butte Silver Bow County – who must approve the document before it can be submitted to the court – an opportunity to consider the document in a public forum. This process allows Butte Silver Bow County to inform and educate the public and the county commissioners about the content of the consent decree. Once that process concludes, the county commissioners will vote on whether to approve the document.
“Montanans value clean water not just to drink, but to sustain our rich and beautiful environment,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme for the District of Montana. “I applaud the work of the negotiating teams from the Justice Department, EPA, the state of Montana, Butte Silver Bow County and Atlantic Richfield in completing this complex agreement. We look forward to the cleanup proceeding with all speed.”
“I am very pleased to announce the release of the proposed Consent Decree and Amended Record of Decision to the Butte community,” said EPA Region 8 Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “These documents secure the financial resources and actions for the continued cleanup of open space, residential areas, creeks and groundwater across the community. They reflect EPA’s commitment to work diligently to complete the cleanup after nearly four decades of Superfund in the great town of Butte.”
Once all consent decree signatures are obtained, the consent decree documents will be lodged with the federal district court of Montana. The Justice Department will publish a formal notice in the Federal Register, stating that the department is accepting public comment on the document for a period of 30 days from the date the notice is published. Under State law, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is also required to hold a public comment period on the consent decree, which will run concurrently.
While the public comment period will not start until after the consent decree is lodged with the court, EPA, the state, Butte Silver Bow County, and Atlantic Richfield have posted the document on their websites, and paper copies will be made available at the Montana Tech Library (1300 W. Park St.) and Citizens Technical Environmental Committee (27 W. Park St.) for public review at www.epa.gov/superfund/silver-bow-butte.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.