April 19, 2008
Roughly 90 residents of the Opportunity and Anaconda area have filed a lawsuit in Butte District court against BP-ARCO and its predecessors for its mining and smelting operations that have “jeopardized their property, health and welfare.” Read the article in today’s Montana Standard or after the jump.
Smelter pollution basis of lawsuit
By John Grant Emeigh of The Montana Standard - 04/19/2008
About 90 residents in the Anaconda and Opportunity areas have filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. and other companies — past and present — alleging the smelting operation contaminated their property and put the public health at risk.
The residents are seeking an undetermined amount of monetary damages for nearly a century’s worth of toxins that they claim have polluted the area by the smelting of the copper mined out of Butte, according to the lawsuit filed this week in Butte district court.
The 18-page complaint demands a jury trial in which the residents want to prove that the mining companies recklessly “jeopardized their property, health and welfare.” The lawsuit contends the defendants negligently released mine tailings, furnace slag, flue dust and numerous heavy metals into the air, soil, surface and ground waters in and around the smelting facility.
The complaint names several defendants including BP Amoco Corp., Atlantic Richfield Co., the Anaconda Mining Co., as well as the estate of Frank Day. The suit alleges the contaminants were created from the Anaconda smelting operations from 1884 to 1980.
Great Falls attorney Tom L. Lewis, who is representing the property owners in the lawsuit, didn’t return phone messages Thursday and Friday seeking comment.
Robin Bullock, the regional manager for Arco in Butte, said her company is reviewing the lawsuit and couldn’t comment on the specific allegations. However, she added that the company is disappointed it is being sued and that it has been involved in cleaning the site for the past 20 years. “We are committed to completing what we have on our plate,” she said.
Bullock said the company has been complying with Environmental Protection Agency requirements for cleaning the site, which she said will continue over the next few years.
George Niland of Opportunity, who is one of the plaintiffs, said the Arco’s cleanup efforts have taken too long and aren’t satisfactory.
“Filing the lawsuit is our last straw,” Niland told The Montana Standard Friday morning.
Niland alleges that the EPA regulations by which ARCO abides allows for a certain amount of toxic materials in the soil. However, Niland claims there is arsenic in the soil on his property, and that it is still at a dangerous level despite the EPA regulations.
“That’s not acceptable to us,” he said.
Niland started the Opportunity Citizens Protection Association as a watchdog group to monitor the clean-up of that area’s Superfund site.
The lawsuit makes eight allegations including negligence and liability for abnormally dangerous activity.
“The defendants have failed and refused to timely and properly remove the contamination,” according to the court documents.