Dump sites for toxic waste continue to cause debate in Butte Superfund cleanup

Posted at 6:34 PM, May 16, 2024

BUTTE — Those responsible for the Superfund cleanup in Butte have narrowed down the repository sites where they hope to dump the tons of toxic material and cap it over, including at the Kelly Mine yard near the Centerville neighborhood. But this still remains a controversial and contentious issue.

“It’s hazardous waste. Don’t dump hazardous waste in neighborhoods in any part of the city of Butte. Please, don’t do it,” said Centerville resident Randy Mrkich.

Representatives with Butte and Atlantic Richfield gave Butte’s Council of Commissioners an update at their recent meeting where they showed four potential dump sites in the city that include the Berkeley Pit, a site just south of the pit, and the Butte Mine Waste Repository northeast of town. Some commissioners believe it's important to establish the repository sites so the actual cleanup can begin.

“We can only go in Silver Bow County, can’t be moved anywhere else. If we don’t find a place to put it or come up with an agreement to put it, then it’s just going to stay where it’s at—we’re not going to move forward,” said Butte Commissioner Josh O’Neil.

The cleanup is outlined in a consent decree signed four years ago to remove toxic soil mainly running along the Silver Bow Creek area due to over a century’s worth of mining. The process has been marred with accusations of lack of transparency. Bill Foley, who is running for Butte chief executive, echoed these concerns at the meeting.

“A chief executive should embrace openness and transparency for every public meeting. That is what I’d like to see moving forward. People should not have to beg to keep toxic waste out of their neighborhood,” said Foley.

The administration says this claim is baseless.

“There is nothing hidden behind the curtain, there’s no secret meetings and people keep doing that and what happens is, that is stalling progress,” said Butte Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher.

ARCO says they hope to have a plan completed by August to give to the EPA for final approval. If approved, dirt could begin moving on the major projects along the creek by May 2025.