Butte's chief executive demands EPA answer all questions from the community about Superfund cleanup

Posted at 1:07 PM, Oct 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-27 15:07:39-04

(Updated with response from the EPA, 5:40 p.m. MDT, 10/26/23)

BUTTE — Butte’s chief executive is holding the EPA’s feet to the fire, demanding more transparency in the Superfund cleanup; he says Butte’s citizens have many questions but the EPA is providing few answers.

“Do the due diligence, finish answering the questions to the community, they deserve that, they deserve that respect,” said Butte Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher.

In an Oct. 25 letter, Gallagher wrote he wants the EPA to address all the questions that were brought up by citizens who attended a public forum in August on the cleanup of over a century’s worth of mining contamination in Butte.

“That was August 30 and it’s eight weeks later and, you know, some of those questions have been submitted prior to August 30 and so the community deserves better,” said Gallagher.

Many in the Butte community have been skeptical of the EPA, claiming it is making decisions with the Atlantic Richfield Co. in closed secret meetings.

These guys don’t know how to answer questions, they know how to make promises, they know how to say, ‘Oh, we’ll answer your questions,’ but when you send them in they don’t get it done,” said Butte resident Evan Barrett.

Some citizens have complained about the use of slightly contaminated dirt, or dirty dirt, as fill dirt in the restoration process.

“The big lie is that ‘we haven’t made our mind up yet,’ but guess what, they’re driving that dirty dirt train right into Butte and they’re just trying to cover it up with a bunch of process,” said Barrett.

The EPA emailed MTN News in response to a request for comment as follows:

EPA is committed to increased engagement and transparency with our partners and the community at the Silver Bow Creek Butte Area Superfund Site. Over the past few weeks, we have provided responses to dozens of specific questions received from the community, and we are continuing to work on responses; we are publishing monthly newsletter updates and updating our website Q&As on an ongoing basis; and we are piloting providing public access to additional technical design meetings for the site. Our Butte site team is continually interacting with partners and community members, hosting public meetings and providing responses to questions and updated information on all aspects of the cleanup to our website and through email distributions, press releases and submissions to local news outlets. We will continue to review and respond to questions received as we move forward. These are just some examples of the extensive efforts that are being made to increase responsiveness to community concerns.

Regarding the potential use of onsite material at portions of the site, EPA has released a position paper and various other documents for public review, hosted community meetings, and requested feedback on this topic. EPA is carefully evaluating input received from partners and community members, and Regional Administrator Becker recently shared an update [] that through this public engagement, it has become clear that we need a more detailed picture of what the use of onsite material would look like to determine how to proceed, so the discussions about modeling, sampling results and design work will continue in order to help inform a future decision about the potential use of onsite material in these three project areas.

EPA appreciates the partnership with Butte-Silver Bow and other signatories to the BPSOU Consent Decree and looks forward to continued collaboration with partners and community members to secure a safe, healthy and prosperous post-cleanup future for Butte.

Web links to Qs and As, documents, etc. []

Upcoming Meetings

11/2: BPSOU Repository Siting Study Process: Hosted by Atlantic Richfield. 5-8 PM. Opportunity for the Butte community to learn about the BPSOU Repository Siting Study process and provide feedback on potential repository locations and plans for waste transport. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet members of the BPSOU project team and learn about design progress and the anticipated construction schedule.

11/7: RD/RA Technical Meeting: First Tuesday of each month at 9 AM. Open for public observation, link here: Click to Join Nov 7 RD/RA Progress Meeting.

Additional information and documents can be found here: []