East Helena environmental cleanup plan subject of Wednesday open house

By Tom Kuglin, Excerpt from the Helena Independent Record 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Montana Environmental Trust Group are holding an open house Wednesday to discuss a draft report for environmental cleanup in East Helena.

In 1998, a century of contamination at the East Helena lead smelter site and other facilities resulted in a multimillion dollar settlement between Asarco and EPA for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Water Act. The smelter closed in 2001, and after later declaring bankruptcy, Asarco placed about $95 million in a trust managed by the Montana Environmental Trust Group. The state of Montana is represented in the trust via the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Department of Justice along with the EPA.

The trust controls both the smelter site and Asarco-owned lands in the area. Contamination includes arsenic and selenium at the site, as well as groundwater plumes.

In the years since the settlement and ahead of the corrective measures study detailing the final cleanup plan, contractors have analyzed contamination and performed “interim measures” addressing pollution. These interim measures include capping the site to stop storm water from spreading contamination.

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