Posted: Aug 6, 2012 6:49 PM by Jamie Leary
Updated: Aug 6, 2012 7:13 PM
An oversight committee has recently been formed to create a health study, based on comments received from a series of public listening sessions held last spring.
Air quality was a top concern voiced at the listening sessions. The county sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality requesting more monitoring stations be set up to determine the area impacted by mining operations and other sources. The letter specifically requested that air samples be tested for polycrystalline silica and other heavy metals.
The DEQ recently responded to the letter stating that it lacks the funding and authority to regulate the requested substances.
Dan Powers of the Butte-Silver Bow Health department says he expected this response and will now work to secure other funding for more testing. Additionally, Powers says the health study the oversight committee chooses to conduct, may help address concerns regrading air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) in Sept. 2011 requiring Butte-Silver Bow County to conduct a health study once every five years for the next 30 years.
"Six members from the public are going to serve on the oversight committee and they will take the comments from the listening sessions and help develop the content of what the health study is going to entail. There will be quite a few meetings that we will have and we'll be informing the general public as we go along and hopefully come up with something. When we develop the health study it will answer a lot of questions that the public had during those public listening sessions. That's the goal of the oversight committee as well as Butte-Silver Bow and Atlantic Richfield who are named respondents in the UAO," Powers said.
The DEQ says in support of the oversight committee, it would "assist in the development of facts sheets or other information describing local ambient air monitoring, airborne particulate matter speciation monitoring data, and permitting and compliance of local sources."
The oversight committee will submit a plan for the health study will be submitted to Environmental Protection Agency by October.
After submittal, there is a 30 day public comment period. Once comments have been received and reviewed, appropriate changes will be made to the work plan will be approved by the EPA around Feb. 2013.