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Butte officials concerned about Blacktail Creek cleanup delays

Posted at 1:40 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 15:40:28-04

BUTTE — Butte officials are getting frustrated by what they see as unnecessary delays in the cleanup of the Blacktail Creek area that was ordered in the consent decree which was adopted almost two years ago.

“I’d rather see dirt moving than more studies done. We’re, again, expending money that could be used for the cleanup,” said Butte Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) — which is overseeing the cleanup — recently requested a study by a Billings contractor be done in the Blacktail Creek riparian area before work can start.

Butte officials say the Natural Resources Damage Program (NRDP) has already taken soil samples in that area when it started the Parrot Tailings removal project four years ago.

“All of those studies are still there, they’re available and they can look back at them. It’s not that old, it’s four years old, the data, it’s not going to change much,” said Gallagher.

The consent decree allocated about $20 million for the Blacktail Creek cleanup and Gallagher believes more studies will be a waste of money.

“Money that’s left over from this project can go back to like the Silver Bow Creek Restoration Project, some different areas in Butte-Silver Bow that will really make our community look better, nicer and get past the Superfund designation that we have here,” said Gallagher.

With the NRDP working on the Parrot Tailings project and the DEQ working on the Blacktail project, it’s a veritable alphabet soup of state agencies involved, and that’s why the city would like to see better communications between the agencies.

“It doesn’t seem to me like the two are working together. We have two state agencies at odds with each other rather than working together,” the chief executive said.

According to a statement released by the DEQ Tuesday:

DEQ is excited to move forward with the Blacktail Creek Riparian Actions, to fulfill our responsibilities under the Consent Decree and to be part of the transformative cleanup coming to Butte in the coming years. At this stage we have assembled an expert team to provide critical technical information though additional data collection that is required by the Consent Decree and needs to be completed before project design can take place. Additional data collection will include more accurately characterizing the quantity of waste that will need to be removed from the site. We are on track to have this project designed and ready to implement in proper sequence with the other remediation projects in the Blacktail Creek corridor.