Wednesday, December 3, 2014

EPA falling short on cleanup

While the Berkeley Pit is the most obvious manifestation of the environmental devastation left by mining in Butte and is the most visible testimony to an EPA that has become ossified and unresponsive to the public in its approach to cleanup, the Pit is not alone as a threat to Butte’s public health and future economic development. The EPA is playing Russian roulette with Butte’s future in its “cleanup” attempts. The problems we see with the Berkeley Pit cleanup—failure to thoroughly test cleanup technologies, failure to respond in a meaningful way to public input, failure to provide for a margin of error, failure to look at fresh cleanup technologies, failure to critically re-evaluate past decisions, failure to consider the adverse effects, such as scaling, of the Pit cleanup on Silver Bow Creek and failure to consider that their estimates/models of what will happen in the Pit may be wrong—are seen as well in the EPA’s approach to stormwater runoff, the Butte Hill, the Parrott Tailings and the Montana Pole Plant.

Parrott Tailings

EPA based its cleanup decision for the Parrott Tailings on a model which has been thoroughly and completely invalidated. Even so, in an exercise of wanton hubris, the EPA clings to that invalid/discredited model, even in the face of overwhelming evidence from several sources that the Parrott Tailings are a clear and present danger to Butte’s already challenged groundwater. The migration of Parrott Tailings water is not conforming to the EPA model. The Parrott Tailing’s cleanup decision belies EPA’s claim that it bases its decisions on “good science.” It seems EPA is more prone to basing decisions on poor guesses. Scarce state restoration dollars will have to be spent to fix the problem.

Montana Pole Plant

The EPA and Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) are content to leave highly toxic dioxin on site at the Montana Pole Plant as a perpetual threat to public health. Dioxin, the active ingredient in “agent orange,” is one of the most potent carcinogens on Earth; even the EPA says there are no safe levels of exposure. Yet, the EPA and the MDEQ want to cover the dioxin on site with a little dirt and some vegetation, even though the capping of toxic waste has a dismal record of effectiveness. Routinely, stormwater runoff flows over the contaminated soil, carrying contaminants to the creek. The EPA audaciously calls this protective.

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