BUTTE, Mont. — The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it has reached an agreement that could conclude the cleanup of mining waste in Butte and remove the area from the Superfund list.

The agreement was negotiated in secret over the past dozen years, the details have not been released and it has not been signed, the Montana Standard reported .

EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento called the agreement “a long-awaited milestone that will bring the Butte community closer to a post-Superfund future.”

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Dave Palmer said city and county officials fought for comprehensive cleanup of tailings and other mine waste.

The area was declared a Superfund site in 1983. A considerable amount of cleanup work has been done over the last 35 years, but residents have argued that tailings and waste buried behind the Butte Civic Center should be cleaned up.

“Our goal was to get a good cleanup, protect our taxpayers, and realize a good reuse of a cleaned up corridor. I believe we have achieved that goal,” Palmer said. “There is still a lot of hard work to be done but we are headed in the right direction.”

A court’s confidentiality order covered the talks, making it unclear when the EPA can release the terms of the agreement it reached with the Atlantic Richfield Co., the county, railroads and state agencies. Residents will have an opportunity to comment on the plan before it is made permanent.

“Cleaning up America’s most contaminated sites has been a priority since the get-go of this administration and the Silver Bow Creek Butte Area is no exception,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Friday. “Today, EPA is taking the necessary steps to ensure a full, protective cleanup for these Montana communities to achieve better environmental and health outcomes.”

Pruitt put both Butte and a separate Superfund site in Anaconda on his “emphasis list” last month, meaning both sites are being fast-tracked for completion.

“Butte has deserved certainty and action for decades and I could not be more pleased that today, together with the EPA, we are delivering on both,” said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. “The citizens and community of Butte can finally rest assured we are on a path to get the job done once and for all.”


Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com