March 29, 2007

In March’s commentary for Montana Public Radio, CFRTAC volunteer Pat Munday looks at the language we use to describe Superfund issues. “In the Superfund process,” he writes, “the naming of things is tremendously important. Some might argue that naming is an arbitrary matter. Take cats, for instance. What’s the difference if I name my cat Gumbie, Rumpelteazer, or Gus? Well, as T.S. Eliot taught us, “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter…” After all, like Adam in Genesis, we construct our world through the act of naming.

I think it was Joseph Kinsey Howard who first referred to the ACM as Montana’s Cheshire Cat: long after the cat was gone, it’s malevolent grin lingered in the Montana Power Company, the Plum Creek Timber Company, and of course ARCO and now British Petroleum-ARCO.

The Cheshire Cat’s grin marks the little town of Opportunity between Anaconda and the Clark Fork River; Opportunity residents are especially sensitive to the act of naming. For many years an area near their town was a toxic waste dump for the Anaconda Company. After the Company merged with ARCO and ARCO began Superfund clean up, this area became the toxic waste repository for other Operable Units—including Silver Bow Creek and Milltown Dam. Unfortunately for Opportunity residents, the ACM’s big cat box was named after their town. Opportunity residents now ask that this waste repository be renamed the British Petroleum Ponds. The county’s chief executive Rebecca Guay says, “We’re just asking that whoever owns the ponds take ownership of them.” As Opportunity resident George Niland explains, “When people type in ‘Opportunity’ on Google we’d rather have them go to Opportunity, Montana, than the Opportunity Ponds.”

Read the rest here (PDF).

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