ANACONDA- Ninety-eight residents of Opportunity, Montana are involved in a lawsuit with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO).
These residents have one common goal: they want their properties cleaned up from the contaminants left by the smelting plant in Anaconda.
“We didn’t put it there and we shouldn’t be responsible for moving it. The company put it there and they should be the ones that have to take it out,” said Opportunity resident Shaun Hoolahan.
The residents of Opportunity that are in this lawsuit are frustrated because their lands are contaminated with more than 250 parts per million of arsenic which is well above the normal, safe levels.
Here are more reactions from Opportunity residents involved in the lawsuit:
“Yeah, it’s just obvious. If the levels are high, they are above historic levels would be had that smelter not existed. They, yeah, it’s their issue it’s polluted, they should need to clean it up. You know it’s been frustrating from the fact that they’ve admitted themselves that it needs to be cleaned up and yet they’ll clean up all around me and they have all the equipment, right on location and still avoid doing my property.”
— Robert Phillips
“I’m very upset and frustrated. I’m even afraid to cut the grass because there is dust. You know, I don’t know if I’m breathing in that stuff in. Because showing it’s contaminated. I don’t like the kids to play out there in the yard. We are afraid of them. We’ve had dogs get cancer from it. We think it’s from it. They get it from something.”
— George Niland
“If I’m littering, if I’m playing my music too loud and it’s disruptive to my neighbors, I need to stop. I need to remedy it. I need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. If my dog is biting somebody, it’s on me. Well, their smelter is a big dog, and it’s bitten off a lot of people, and it needs to be taking care of.”
— Rick Hamilton
The Residents of Opportunity only want their land restored to its original state before the smelting plant was even built.
“If my neighbor throws a bag of garbage over the fence, you can damn sure bet he is going to come over and pick it up. I’m not going to pick it up. And that’s the same thing as that. It’s their garbage, get it out. Get it out of my yard. I don’t want it here,” said Niland.
The residents and their attorneys are happy to finally get their day in court to go after ARCO.
Monte Beck, senior partner at the law firm Beck, Amsden & Stalpes, said the residents of Opportunity have suffered under corporate greed and pollution for decades.
“These folks that we represent have no political power, really, or economic power to do anything. They’re simply there to ask ARCO to do what’s right and to return their land to the state it was before this all happened,” he said.
Shaun Hoolahan sees no option other than going to court to get the contamination issues dealt with.
“I’m glad we are going to get our day in court. I hope to see it happen. This has been, ARCO has managed to drag this on for a decade now, almost a decade and it’s time that we hear this out,” said Hoolahan.
“Now the Montana Supreme Court has offered us the opportunity to go and have a trial where we’ll have 12 regular people and ARCO on the other side,” Beck added. “And we’ll have a fair playing field to have our dispute resolved.”
ARCO and their attorneys declined to comment for this story; we will continue to report updates as we learn more information.
Beck, Amsden & Stalpes is holding a public meeting in Anaconda on Jan. 23 for the people that live in Anaconda and Opportunity.
-Kenneth Webb reporting for MTN