Next year’s East Helena Asarco site cleanup plan to be presented

Eve Byron, Excerpt from the Helena Independent Record

The 2014 plan for the ongoing effort to clean up the former Asarco smelter site in East Helena and reduce the migration of groundwater plumes contaminated with arsenic and selenium will be presented to the community during a meeting on Dec. 18.

The public meeting on the proposed 2014 work plan is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Montana Environmental Trust Group’s office at 325 Manlove St. in East Helena.

Presentations will include details on the 2014 Draft Interim Measures Work Plan; updates on the residential yard cleanups; and tips on following the Lewis and Clark County Soil Displacement and Disposal Regulations.

The open house will feature informational exhibits about groundwater cleanup efforts, redevelopment studies and other topics. In addition, the meeting presents an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposals.

“The 2014 focus is the interim cover system,” said Jay Dehner an engineer with CH2M Hill, which was hired to work on the project. “The interim measures sets it up for a final cover that will sit like a blanket over the top of it to reach our infiltration reduction goals for permanent closure of the site.”

Demolition of the 125-year-old former Asarco lead smelter has been ongoing since 2009, which is when the three smokestacks were blasted to the ground. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency oversaw the demolition of 24 buildings, including the circus-like green and peach Barnum and Bailey buildings and the six-story concrete ore storage building. Pulverized rubble fills their footprints, which are being covered by layers of clay and soil, and eventually will have a thicker permanent earthen cap with native grasses on top of it.

Prickly Pear Creek also was diverted into a temporary man-made channel, in order to route it away from the 14-million-ton slag pile and to make way for the removal of the Lower Lake and Tito Park. The Upper Lake already has been drained, and state, local and federal officials hope this work will help slow, or even stop, the off-site migration of the contaminated plumes.

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