Governor Bullock Statement on Signing and Lodging of the Butte Priority Soils Consent Decree

Former Governors
  • June 08 2020

Governor Steve Bullock today issued the following statement regarding the signing and filing of the Butte Priority Soils Consent Decree in federal district court.

“Today marks a significant milestone in our efforts to secure a final cleanup for America’s largest Superfund site. After many years of challenges and disagreements, we have done things the Montana way by never giving up and working together and towards a future that meets the needs of the Butte community. I am thankful for the leadership of local, state, and federal officials and the Atlantic Richfield Company in negotiating a final remedy that protects Butte’s waterways and public health, and secures future community assets and robust financial assurances.”

In 2006, the State of Montana partially concurred with a Record of Decision Amendment made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Butte raising concerns over the ongoing impacts to groundwater and surface water quality associated with historic mine wastes at the Parrot Tailings, Diggings East and the North Side Tailings sites.

Following nearly a decade of disagreement, Governor Bullock announced in late 2015 that the state was moving ahead with the Parrot Tailings removal under its own authority to address the most significant source of groundwater contamination to Silver Bow Creek and the watershed downstream. Progress with the Parrot Tailings site helped overcome an impasse in negotiations allowing for the state, EPA, the Atlantic Richfield Company and the city and county of Butte-Silver Bow to reach an agreement in principle on cleanup plans in January 2018, which led to the proposed Consent Decree that has been lodged with the Court. 

The final consent decree includes requirements to remove contaminated tailings at the Northside and Diggings East Tailings areas, remove contaminated sediment and additional floodplain contamination from Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks, treat more contaminated stormwater before it flows into the creeks, capture and treat additional contaminated groundwater to prevent negative impacts to the creeks, and actions to prevent recontamination of the creeks in the future. The consent decree requires Atlantic Richfield to undertake or finance over $150 million in cleanup actions, and provide financial assurances for future cleanup actions. The consent decree also outlines enhanced community benefits through the implementation of end land use plans along the Silver Bow Creek Corridor.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the State of Montana will receive $20.5 million in settlement funding, and will lead remedial actions along Blacktail creek. Following completion of the work at Blacktail Creek, the State expects approximately half of the proceeds to be available for restoration and end land use needs—specifically repaying funds used to complete Phase II of the Parrot Project—ultimately contributing about one-third of the overall project costs for the Parrot Project through this settlement.

The State also intends to set aside $1 million to support the vision of a lined creek above the confluence of Blacktail and Silver Bow Creeks. The State and the city and county of Butte-Silver Bow expect to finalize an agreement documenting this funding commitment and identifying shared goals for cooperation and coordination in the coming weeks.