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EPA highlights progress on Montana Superfund projects

Posted at 7:56 PM, Jun 12, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is highlighting some of the progress it has made in the last year on Superfund projects around Montana.

The agency has released a yearly report on accomplishments in Region 8, which includes Montana and five other states.

EPA leaders said they have been putting effort into getting work started on long-awaited projects. The agency has put a number of Superfund sites on a new “emphasis list,” aimed at directing more attention to resolving the outstanding issues.

The Butte and Anaconda Superfund sites are among those added to the emphasis list. Earlier this week, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice officially filed a consent decree for the Butte site, outlining the framework for more than $150 million of cleanup on mining-related contamination. The work is expected to last five years.

In the Libby Superfund site, the EPA has already started deleting some cleanup areas from the National Priorities List. Much of the cleanup of asbestos from the area’s vermiculite mine has been completed.

The report also showcases the East Helena Superfund site – the former site of the ASARCO smelter – as an example for what can be done on reclaimed ground.

“I’ve really been honored to see the community transform there, and it’s still being transformed as we speak,” said Greg Sopkin, the EPA’s Region 8 administrator.

Cleanup work at the ASARCO site has been going for several years. Since the work began, contaminated soils have been covered with a 62-acre cap to prevent groundwater contamination. About a mile and a half of Prickly Pear Creek’s channel has been rebuilt to restore a more natural floodplain and keep the water out of contaminated areas.

The EPA pointed to new developments that are going forward in the area, from new schools to a subdivision. They also noted the planned Greenway trail project, with Prickly Pear Land Trust set to begin work on a new trail system that will eventually connect the smelter site with East Helena.

You can find the EPA's full Year in Review report here.