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EPA adds Anaconda Copper Mining Co. Smelter and Refinery in Cascade County to Superfund site list

Release Date: 03/08/2011
Contact Information: Wendy Thomi, EPA, 406-457-5037; Joe Vranka, EPA 406-457-5039

Listing on NPL makes cleanup a high priority

(Denver, Colo. – March 8, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with support from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), today announced the addition of the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. Smelter and Refinery (ACM) site in Cascade County, Montana, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites.

The ACM site is now eligible for Federal cleanup funds that will support an extensive investigation and a comprehensive, long-term cleanup using the Superfund process while EPA seeks to recover costs from responsible parties. Listing also guarantees public participation in cleanup decisions, provides opportunities for a qualified community group to receive a technical assistance grant, and enables the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to initiate a Health Assessment in the area.

The ACM site contains contamination from historic smelting and refining activities at Anaconda Copper Mining Company’s Great Falls Reduction Department. The five areas being considered for investigation and potential cleanup include:

residential soils

the former smelter site

areas along the railroad bed

Missouri River sediments and surface water

groundwater

Over the years, wastes at the ACM site were placed in a landfill on-site or dumped directly into the Missouri River. Tailings and slag were dumped into the River from a tramway that ran along the riverbank below the Black Eagle dam raceway. Smelter operation at the Refinery site employed a 506-foot-tall plant stack for several years before pollution control technology became common. This stack allowed contaminants to be aerially dispersed over a wide area in the vicinity of the facility.

EPA’s primary concern is recent sampling results (2007, 2008) showing elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and cadmium in residential soils. Past analytical results (2003) documented the presence of metals on the smelter site, in Missouri River sediments and surface water, and along the railroad bed, including antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, silver, sodium, and zinc.

Based on recent investigations and meetings with local officials and Black Eagle community members, EPA and MDEQ determined that Superfund listing will be the best process to ensure this comprehensive risk assessment and cleanup. Cascade County, the Black Eagle community and the Governor of Montana support placement of the ACM Smelter and Refinery site on the NPL.


“The DEQ is excited about the NPL listing and we’re continuing work with the EPA in the spirit of collaboration on federal Superfund site remediation,” said Montana DEQ Director Richard Opper. “We’re encouraged that community members support this listing and look forward to helping them reach their goals.”

“The listing of this site enables all agencies involved to identify and clean up contaminated areas in conjunction with ongoing local public projects. We will continue to work closely with the local community and government representatives to make this process work smoothly.” said Julie DalSoglio, EPA Montana Office Director.

The community of Black Eagle is located just north of Great Falls and was founded in 1882 by workers at the nearby Great Falls Refinery. The Boston & Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver Mining Company began construction of the first smelter at the refinery site in 1892. Operations began in 1893 when copper ore from mines in Butte, Montana was concentrated, smelted, and refined into blister copper. In time, this refinery came to construct and operate the tallest plant stack in the world, at 506 feet high. Electrolytic and furnace refineries also operated at the site.

The property was acquired by Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1910 and renamed the Great Falls Reduction Department. Smelting activities continued at the facility until the early 1970s. The property again changed hands in 1977, when these holdings were purchased by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). Primary products from activities at the site were copper, zinc, arsenic, and cadmium.

The NPL consists of contaminated sites across the nation. The Superfund Program was created to reduce the risks these sites pose to public health and the environment and return the sites to beneficial use.

The updated NPL is being published in the Federal Register on March 10, 2011, making cleanup of the ACM site a high priority nationally. It authorizes EPA and MDEQ to initiate and oversee the cleanup of the site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

More information about the site and the Federal Register notice can be obtained by visiting the following Web site:

www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/mt/acmsmelterrefinery

Records can be viewed at the following locations:

U.S. EPA Montana Office

Superfund Records Center

10 W 15th St. Suite 3200

Helena, MT 59626

(406) 457-5046 or

(406) 457-5000

Cascade County Courthouse Annex

325 2nd Ave. North

Great Falls, MT 59401

(406) 454-6810

The Black Eagle Community Center will serve as an Information Repository in the future.

Black Eagle Community Center

2332 Smelter Ave NE

Black Eagle, MT. 59414

(406) 453-4736