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Acting EPA chief tours Butte, Anaconda Superfund sites

Posted at 11:19 AM, Sep 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-08 13:19:20-04

Story by Mederios Babb, MTN News

BUTTE, Mont. – Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited the Butte-Anaconda Superfund on Friday after being invited by Senator Steve Daines.

Daines invited city, state, and federal officials to work on a plan for the clean-up process.

“These communities have been ignored way too long,” said Daines.

Daines’ main push during the tour and visit was less talk and more action.

“If there is something that is wrong in our process across our country is that people are pulling apart and going to their respective corners. It is time to come together. Pull communities, the federal government, state government, county government together and actually deliver an outcome,” said Daines.

He believes the first step is coming to a meeting of the minds, which is why he extended an invite to tour the Superfund to local officials as well as Wheeler.

Wheeler said the last time an EPA head came to both Anaconda and Butte was 1990. He hopes by visiting and learning more about the clean-up that conversation will open up not only to him but to the community.

“It’s not just cleaning up a site in a vacuum,” said Wheeler. “We have to make sure we are working with the community groups and make sure there is a buy-in among the community people and make sure we are communicating any risk that occurs during the clean-up process.”

Wheeler said often there is not enough reporting on the work the EPA is doing in terms of cleaning up the county and he wants people to know Butte and Anaconda are a priority.

“These sites, I know they need attention and we are providing that attention,” said Wheeler.

Activist Fritz Daily said it’s disheartening to see how long the process has taken and is frustrated with the fact that it still isn’t completed.

“This community to this date has not received the type of clean up that we need and deserve and most importantly are guaranteed under Superfund law, state law, and the Montana constitution,” said Daily. “Often at these meetings I feel like a CNN reporter at a Trump Rally.”

Daily said Butte has been such a vital part of the nation’s success and yet has been neglected when it comes to restoration. Wheeler hopes to change his mind.

“Butte didn’t turn its back on our country and our country cannot turn its back on Butte,” said Wheeler.

Daines said the work on finishing the consent decrees and making the process open to the public are the next tasks on the checklist.

Wheeler did not disclose where the Butte-Anaconda site was in terms of the EPA’s priorities but did say it was near the top.