ANACONDA – Superfund cleanup in Anaconda is now a national priority.
“You may not have been on the top rung of the ladder up until now. You’re now on the top rung of the ladder as far as his emphasis,” said EPA’s Senior Advisor Albert “Kell” Kelly:
Kelly told a large crowd at the Old Works golf course in Anaconda Tuesday that his boss, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, has put Anaconda and Butte on a priority list of Superfund sites that will receive attention.
“Often time you’ll find sites that sit for a long time without action. This is not the case in Anaconda. There’s been a lot of action up here, a lot of action, a lot of good action, we’ve had a lot of professionals working on it. He wants to send the signal that now’s the time to get this finished,” Kelly said.
For the past 30 years, the people in Anaconda have been trying to get the EPA to clean up the Superfund site with much of the pollution coming from that old smelter stack. Now the EPA says they now have a definitive goal of 2025 to get the cleanup done.
“This is moving forward and this is going to get done. And also giving you a date quite frankly gives you something to hold people accountable to,” said the EPA’s Regional Director Doug Benevento.
Top EPA officials are visiting Anaconda and Butte this week to address cleanup of smelter and mining contamination left by Atlantic-Richfield.
“We’re committed to ensuring that all properties in the smelter district are eventually and ultimately sampled and that includes interior dust and soil and have that work completed with any cleanup that’s necessary,” said Charlie Coleman, the EPA’s project manager for Anaconda.
Many Anaconda residents appreciate the cleanup taking priority, but some question if it’s enough.
One resident at the meeting said. “To me it’s a little bit like having four alligators in a pool, pulling two of them out and saying, ‘ok, it’s good to swim now.’ I still think there are human health implications that need to be looked at.”
The EPA hopes to have a consent decree agreement with all parties involved in place by July, and if not, it will order Atlantic-Richfield to clean up the mess.
These EPA officials will be in Butte Wednesday for a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. at the Butte Public Archives.