ANACONDA – The historic Mitchell Stadium in Anaconda was built as a New Deal project in the late 1930s. But the discovery of a previously unknown rail line buried under the field is a bad deal for the site, which was closed down due to possible contamination.
“The railroad carts transported bricks, transported slag, they transported all sorts of things to and from the smelter, so the fact that there are tracks going through there there’s the potential that anything could have spilled gone off these railroad carts and could be leaching into the soils,” said Anaconda Superintendent Justin Barnes.
The EPA has tested the field in the past and found no contamination, but the test didn’t go deep enough.
“Typically they test about 12 inches down in the soil and this is closer to 18 inches,” said Barnes.
Anaconda is requesting the EPA to conduct tests deeper into the ground to determine if there is any contamination. Until then, Mitchell stadium is off limits.
“They use this facility nonstop throughout the year, even when snow hits, people still try to walk the track, try to walk the bleachers up there, we have kids football season out there, in the spring it’s track and field and so we just don’t want our kids, our community exposed to anything that could potentially be dangerous for them,” said Barnes.
It all sorted as a basic maintenance operation, they were looking for some possible leaking waterlines, where they excavated this area, they didn’t expect to find old railroad tracks.
“We’re not pointing fingers at the EPA, but we are optimistic that they are going to come in here and help us with this. ARCO, hopefully, will be helpful as well and we’ll get the matter resolved,” said Barnes.
If contaminants are found, the city will have the dirt removed and replaced and they hope the Atlantic Richfield Co. will pay for it.
Reporting by Ken Spencer for MTN News