US EPA, the State of Montana, the consolidated City and County government of Butte-Silver Bow (BSB) and Atlantic Richfield Company have announced a proposed partial Consent Decree for the Butte Priority Soils (BPSOU) site. If the proposed Consent Decree is approved by the BSB Commissioners, and if it is subsequently approved by the federal court after a period for public comments, then the Consent Decree will provide for further work to construct, operate and maintain an amended remedy that is consistent with the proposed plan US EPA presented in April 2019. The work will include additional restoration and redevelopment in the creek corridor, transforming the landscape in the heart of Butte.
Public participation has been an important part of the process to develop this Consent Decree. Multiple public meetings have been held to discuss the proposed plan and how it will fit into the public's preferred future use of the creek corridor area. Public input and comments were received, detailed information was provided on US EPA's website, and agency officials responded to questions from the public.
The next step is for the BSB Commissioners to consider whether to approve the proposed Consent Decree. There will be a public education process to enable the Commissioners to make an informed decision that is in the interests of the Butte community.
If the BSB Commissioners approve the proposed Consent Decree, enabling BSB to execute the agreement, the next step will be to "lodge" (i.e., file) the proposed Consent Decree with the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The proposed Consent Decree will be accompanied by a notice of lodging and the governments' complaints, the latter of which identify certain of the claims the parties are settling under the Consent Decree. After lodging, there will be a public comment period during which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the State of Montana will solicit public input on the proposed Consent Decree. Following the public comment period, the US and State may file a motion asking the federal court to approve and enter the Consent Decree. The motion should address and respond to any comments submitted during the public comment period. After the federal court has reviewed all filed materials—including the Consent Decree, the governments' motion, and any public comments—the court may approve and enter the Consent Decree. If entered, the Consent Decree should take effect 60 days later. Further information about the proposed Consent Decree approval process can be found by visiting U.S. EPA's website.
If the Consent Decree is approved by the court, Atlantic Richfield will complete the remedies described in the consent decree, completing portions of the cleanup work that have been underway for more than 30 years. The work will strengthen environmental protection for, and improve water quality in, Blacktail and Silver Bow Creeks. If the proposed consent decree is approved by the court, Atlantic Richfield Company will also convert impacted areas in the creek corridor into open public spaces, constructing trails, greenspace and other amenities for the community in the area between Casey Street and the former Butte Reduction Works.
From constructed wetland and water features in the stormwater treatment system, to reconstructed stream segments that will improve water quality, aquatic and wetland habitat, the environmental remedies and related projects described in the proposed Consent Decree have been customized to reflect Butte's natural features and history. More stormwater and groundwater will be collected and treated before it reaches Silver Bow Creek. More stream areas will be remediated. Related land use plans will allow land once used for industrial and municipal waste disposal to be redeveloped as park and open space for the community to enjoy.
This combination of remedy, restoration and public use projects would complete much of the remedy at this unique site, transforming land around the creek corridor that runs through the heart of Butte. The proposed partial consent decree would also resolve long-standing differences over liability and the scope of an effective and sustainable remedy. Collectively , these actions would provide enduring benefits to the community in Butte.
Atlantic Richfield will build a 120-acre chain of parkland along Butte's creek corridor.