BUTTE — The EPA confirmed it is investigating allegations its members may have tried to discredit, even intimidate, scientists who produced health studies that showed elevated health risks in Butte due to mining contamination.
About a decade ago, an environmental engineering student at Montana Tech alleges a local EPA official tried to block her dissertation because it cited increased mortality rates in Butte.
“It was a very strong pushback; they said that they would stop my dissertation and me from graduating. They definitely tried to attack my credibility, my professional status, everything they could do,” said Stacie Barry Peterson.
The EPA stated this matter has been referred to the Office of the Inspector General and added, “The EPA takes the allegations seriously and is dedicated to maintaining public trust and confidence.”
However, Butte's public trust and confidence in the EPA are low.
“It destroys trust in EPA because—if it’s true and it needs to be fully investigated—but if these charges are true they border actually on the criminal, and EPA, one, needs to takes these seriously and then respond in a meaningful way,” said Butte resident and activist John Ray.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said in a statement that he supports the investigation into the allegations adding:
“I will hold anyone accountable to ensure this community receives answers and will continue to fight for the cleanup the folks in Butte deserve.”
Peterson also wants Butte to get the cleanup it deserves.
“It took 100 years to get it in the state it is. If it takes 100 years to clean it up, so be it. Butte can be an amazing place where we show the story of how to remediate and clean up and bring it back to a healthy environment,” said Peterson.