October 13, 2006
The Montana Standard recently featured additional coverage of a meeting held September 28 in Opportunity to discuss the ongoing dust problem associated with the BP-ARCO repository.
The meeting, facilitated by Lois Gibbs of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, was attended by numerous key decision makers from the state, EPA and BP-ARCO.
The complete article is found below.
Forum meets on toxic dust
By Vera Haffey of The Montana Standard - 10/11/2006
ANACONDA — It took months to arrange a meeting day that suited all of the parties involved. But organizers say they’re happy with the progress made at a recent forum held to discuss toxic dust that blows from Arco-British Petroleum’s 3,500-acre mining waste repository to property and homes in Opportunity.
“In New York, we don’t call it an informational meeting, we call it an accountability meeting,” said moderator Lois Gibbs, whose environmental activist work at Love Canal spawned Superfund law. “These are the folks who are supposed to fix the problem.” Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Quality, Arco and the county met face to face with residents to hammer out differences and air concerns about a recent dust mitigation plan.
“It was wonderful,” Maureen Robinson of the Opportunity Citizens’ Protection Association said of the gathering that appeared to generate movement from the decision-makers. “We’re feeling really good about it.” That loosely written plan, proposed by Arco in response to citizens’ complaints, was criticized by residents and rejected by county leaders who asked the governor and attorney general to intervene.
Jim Kuipers of Kuipers and Associates of Butte, who provides technical assistance to the county, gave background on the long- standing dust problem that dates back to the erection of the main stack in 1918 to the time the smelter closed in 1980.
After the plant was shuttered, a care and maintenance routine was put in place, with an interim water treatment and dust suppression program, he said.
But in 1996, Arco discontinued those interim dust mitigation measures.
“About all I can say is look where we are today,” Kuipers said. “Maybe one can say if they hadn’t been discontinued, we wouldn’t be having this meeting.” Arco representative Gavin Scalley defended Arco’s work practices. He said that organization has improved dust control techniques in several ways during the past few months.
“On the ground, everyday, we’re doing things differently,” he said.
More water is sprayed on haul roads and problem areas now. Earth in borrow areas is “pre-wet.” Interim seeding is taking place. Work orders are altered to make problem sites a priority, and work on the streamside tailings is moving faster than planned.
Two major improvements in technique involve the more liberal use of magnesium chloride to bond the surface of roads, and application of a polymer surfactant material to hold down the dust.
Even so, those measures haven’t made an appreciable difference in the air that Opportunity residents breathe — especially during “dust events,” said citizens who still don’t know exactly what’s in that air.
Sandy Olsen, who represented the Department of Environmental Quality, agreed, especially when it comes to monitoring.
“We believe that the dust monitoring program needs to be expanded,” she told the group, adding that additional mitigation measures need to be used to make sure dust is controlled.