The Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (the Custodial Trust) performs its responsibilities in compliance with the terms of the Settlement Agreement (ASARCO, 2009) and Consent Decree Regarding Montana Sites and consistent with the Custodial Trust’s fiduciary obligations to the United States and the State of Montana—the sole beneficiaries (Beneficiaries) of the Custodial Trust. Additionally, the Custodial Trust must fulfill ASARCO’s clean-up obligations set forth in a 1998 Consent Decree, as modified, between the United States and ASARCO LLC, et al (Civil Action No. CV-98-3-H-CCL-US federal District Court, District of Montana) as a result of claims brought against ASARCO by the United States pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
The Montana Settlement Agreement designates a “Lead Agency” to oversee Custodial Trust’s cleanup activities for each of the Montana Sites. In consultation with the non-Lead Agencies, each Lead Agency has final approval authority over cleanup activities, funding, expenditures, and the contractors, consultants, and other professionals retained by the Montana Custodial Trust to work at the Montana Sites. The Lead Agency can either oversee the Custodial Trust’s cleanup or can itself perform the cleanup using trust funds.
The designated Lead Agencies for the four Montana Sites are:
USEPA for East Helena Site cleanup
USDOI for East Helena Site natural resource restoration
MDEQ for the UBMC/Mike Horse Site cleanup
MDEQ for Black Pine mine cleanup
USDOI for Black Pine mine natural resource restoration
MDEQ for the Iron Mountain Site cleanup
USDOI for Iron Mountain Site natural resource restoration.
Montana Cleanup Sites
USEPA is overseeing the Custodial Trust’s cleanup of the East Helena Site under federal hazardous waste laws, including the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). EPA consults with the USDOJ, USFWS, MDEQ, and MDOJ on Montana Custodial Trust environmental actions, which are focused on soil and groundwater contamination caused by more than a century of smelting lead, zinc, and other ores at the East Helena facility. USDOI and the USFWS will undertake natural resource restoration to be paid from funds held in trust for USDOI by the Montana Custodial Trust. The State also plans significant restoration activities at the East Helena Site utilizing funds paid directly to MDOJ as part of the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement. Under Superfund, EPA is completing the cleanup of lead-contaminated soils in private residential yards and other private properties in East Helena not owned by the Custodial Trust. EPA’s residential cleanup activities are funded by a separate trust established prior to the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement.
Under the direction of MDEQ, the Custodial Trust is operating the UBMC/Mike Horse water treatment plant, designed and built by ASARCO to treat water contaminating the Blackfoot River because of historic mining activities at the UBMC. MDEQ consults with the USFS and MDOJ on the Custodial Trust’s activities. Separately, in collaboration with the USFS and MDOJ, MDEQ is carrying out remediation and restoration of the UBMC, including the Mike Horse Dam, on property largely owned by the USFS, which is situated at the headwaters of the Blackfoot River. Cleanup and restoration are paid out of funds received directly by the State as part of the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement and other sources.
In consultation with the USFS, the Hard Rock Division of MDEQ is remediating contamination from silver and lead mining at the Black Pine Mine site. USDOI will address the natural resource damages with trust funds. The Custodial Trust’s role at Black Pine is limited to managing the Black Pine cleanup and natural resource damage funds and providing contract and administrative support to MDEQ.
The Iron Mountain Site is part of the larger Flat Creek/Iron Mountain & Mill (IMM) federal Superfund Site that was added to EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 2009. Under the Montana Settlement Agreement, in consultation with U.S. Forest Service, MDEQ is the Lead Agency for the Iron Mountain Site. Cleanup of the property owned by the Custodial Trust will be coordinated with the EPA-led Superfund cleanup process at the Flat Creek/IMM NPL Site. USDOI will address natural resource damages utilizing trust funds.
Under the Montana Settlement Agreement, the Custodial Trust must secure the prior approval of the Lead and non-Lead Agencies who are beneficiaries of the Custodial Trust before it can lease, sell, or transfer land that is part of a Montana Site.
East Helena Redevelopment
At East Helena, EPA, and the State of Montana must approve any sale, lease or conveyance of any real property interest in the East Helena Site to a public or private third party. The Custodial Trust must also secure approval of the USDOI for properties in East Helena where it has performed natural resource restoration. Sale proceeds are used to fund further cleanup activities at East Helena.
Montana Mining Sites Redevelopment
Sale or lease of any Custodial Trust property at the UBMC/Mike Horse, Black Pine, and Iron Mountain sites must be approved by the State of Montana and the USFS. Proceeds from any lease or sale are deposited in the cleanup accounts for each of the three mining sites and will be used to pay for further cleanup of the sites.