October 9, 2006

Reaction to the recently released Butte Priority Soils Record of Decision (ROD) has been mixed. For Montana Public Radio, CFRTAC volunteer Pat Munday offered his preliminary assessment of the ROD. Here’s a snippet:

First, the good news: EPA will accelerate the schedule for testing and cleanup of toxic dust in our homes; and, the agency will require thorough monitoring of surface and ground water from reclaimed areas. The bad news? The notorious Parrot tailings will be left in place, where they can continue to bleed contamination into the ground water; and Arco-British Petroleum gets nearly full credit for all the work it has done to date. Much of that work involved covering up toxic mine waste – you know, cap it and fence it – and did not allow for public comment.

To read more, check out the full commentary (PDF).

Also last week, the Montana Standard reported that environmental advocate John Ray had filed a complaint with Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, contending that the Montana EPA office failed to consider environmental justice issues at the Superfund site. The Standard’s article is featured below:

Ray complains about EPA cleanup
By Roberta Forsell Stauffer of The Montana Standard - 10/06/2006

Butte resident John Ray is again taking his Superfund objections to the highest levels of the federal government.

This week Ray filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General In Washington, D.C. He alleges that Montana’s EPA office violated the agency’s mandate to consider environmental justice issues on the Butte Priority Soils Superfund site.

He hopes his efforts will force the agency to hold off on finalizing its Record of Decision for the site until these allegations of discrimination against poor people are addressed.

Ray contends EPA ignored its obligation to reach out to low-income citizens who live within the 5-square-mile site stretching roughly from Walkerville south to Timber Butte. He believes the environmental justice mandate should have compelled officials to give special weight to the needs of poor people while crafting a cleanup plan.

He also alleges further discrimination since the particular health risks that poor people face from exposure to mine waste were not given special consideration. Ray said he’s been assigned a case number and should hear back from Washington in five to seven weeks. He also sent a formal complaint to the EPA regional office in Denver and asked Montana’s Congressional delegation to look into the issue.

In a brief phone interview Thursday, Montana EPA office Director John Wardell questioned whether environmental justice issues apply to the site.

“We’re not treating those folks (low-income residents) any differently than we’re treating any homeowner or family throughout Butte,” he said.

The decision requires that all homes and apartments in the site be tested for heavy metals and arsenic and cleaned if the toxins are getting into the living space. Even homes outside the site borders will be sampled and cleaned, if needed, and public education and outreach programs are mandated as well.

Nevertheless, Wardell said the agency is taking Ray’s complaint seriously.

“We’ve sent the complaint to the folks who are intimately familiar with the (environmental justice) program and we’ll wait to hear,” Wardell said.
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