Opportunity residents look toward contamination cleanup ruling - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Opportunity residents look toward contamination cleanup ruling

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The little community of Opportunity, located just a few miles from Anaconda, was right in the path of the pollution spewing from the Anaconda smelter stack.

“For 100 years the smelter emitted between 6 and 24 tons of arsenic per day and much of that arsenic, along with lead, cadmium, and copper, landed on our clients’ properties,” said Attorney Justin Stalpes who is representing the Opportunity residents.

The firm of Beck, Amsden and Stalpes is representing nearly 100 residents of Opportunity in a lawsuit against Atlantic Richfield over the cleanup of contamination for their properties.

A hearing will be held before the Montana Supreme Court on the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula Friday to determine if the lawsuit can go to court.

Atlantic Richfield argues they’ve fulfilled its end years ago by cleaning up the land to EPA standards, but Opportunity residents say the land is still contaminated and ARCO should pay for its removal.

“ARCO’s contamination is no different than if your neighbor threw their garbage, emptied their garbage can onto your property. You have a right under Montana law to force that person to remove their garbage,” Stalpes said.

The ruling coming from Friday’s hearing is a big one, according to Stalpes, because it could determine ARCO’s responsibility for a future cleanup in a Superfund site that includes 15,000 people.

“I’m exceptionally nervous about this case just because of how big that stakes are, so I’m certainly not taking anything for granted,” Stalpes said.

The oral arguments will begin at 9 in the morning Friday at the George Dennison Theater.

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