The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced on Friday that the Atlantic Richfield Company (AR) agreed to finish cleaning up the site of a former copper smelting site that the BP subsidiary had assumed control over all the way back in 1977. The Anaconda Co. Smelter was in operation for nearly a century. It closed in 1980; three years later it was deemed a superfund site by the EPA. According to a press release, the operation polluted soil across its 300-square-mile footprint, including in residential yards and industrial areas, contaminated creeks, surface water, and groundwater, and left dangerous waste products in its wake further contaminating the area.
While substantial work has been done to remediate and address many of these environmental concerns, the site still contains a handful of major areas that require cleanup, including a waste consolidation process that is expected to last over the next decade according to the EPA’s most recent background about the site. It’s not just the superfund site that AR will be cleaning up, either: Under a consent decree, the company must finish remediating residential yards in two towns and clean up soil in the areas above Anaconda. The company must also close its remaining slag piles, a waste product from copper smelting that contains known carcinogens like arsenic and lead.
Speaking about this substantial step in addressing the superfund site, District of Montana U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich shared what it means for residents and anyone harmed by Anaconda’s prior operations:
“I was born in Anaconda the same year the smelter closed and while I never saw smoke coming out of the smokestack that still stands over Anaconda, I know what it represents. It is a symbol representing the hard work of many Anacondans, including members of my family, that built our town, but it’s also a symbol of a Superfund site that has existed for far too long. If the smokestack represents our past, this consent decree represents our future. Many people, some who are no longer with us, worked diligently to get us to this point and I’m grateful beyond words for all of their work. Our water will be cleaner, our soils will be purer, our slag will be covered, and our future will be brighter because of this historic agreement.”
The total estimated cost to finish the cleanup and remediation process is $83.1 million. AR has already agreed to pay the EPA Superfund Program a $48 million reimbursement for agency costs between the EPA and Justice Department. AR will also pay around $185,000 to the U.S. Forest Service for its work in future remediation activities on Forest Service land.
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