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.

— Reporter Vera Haffey may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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