Butte cleanup comment period extended

The deadline for the public to comment on the EPA’s revised cleanup plan for Butte’s urban Superfund site, Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit (BPSOU) was extended by 30 days. Last Tuesday, June 11 at close of business was supposed to be the deadline for citizens to submit comments to the agency. But before that original deadline expired, EPA announced an extension that gives folks now until July 11 (a Thursday) to weigh in. 


Well, because “we” asked for it. “We” came in the form of an email request from Butte resident Evan Barrett, a Restore Our Creek Coalition activist who also made the request in person to Region 8 EPA administrator, Greg Sopkin while he was visiting Butte. The request was granted apparently recognizing the premise that the proposed plan is the penultimate step before the cleanup for Butte’s urban Superfund site is finalized in a Consent Decree. (I speculate that another reason for the extension is because Sopkin, new to his job, wants to get off on the right foot with the Restore Our Creek crowd.)   


Welcome to Butte, Mr. Sopkin

Sopkin took over the EPA Administrator position for its Region 8 on May 1. He replaces Doug Benevento, who left to accept a promotion within the agency. Benevento gained much fanfare in Butte during his own time in the position for his rapport with the public and his ability to get the parties involved in Butte’s Superfund closer toward agreement than ever before. Sopkin seems earnest and intent to follow in those footsteps, as the agency is still maintaining it can meet a mid-August deadline for a CD (see my last column, if you want to learn more about what a Consent Decree, or “CD” is in Superfund).  


EPA has shown more attention and willingness to listen to Butte’s community concerns in the past few years than ever before. While I’m not 100% certain, I would be willing to bet the number of times a regional administrator has visited our town prior to Doug Benevento was less than the number of times Benevento and now Sopkin have come since. The EPA is taking our community’s cleanup and CD process seriously, and that’s a good thing.

Comments on the proposed cleanup plan received thus far… 

Even though the deadline for citizens and entities to comment on the proposed plan has been extended, some very good comments were submitted prior to the original deadline of June 11.

Butte-Silver Bow’s Council of Commissioners voted 10-1 to approve and send the comments prepared on behalf of our local government by its Superfund staff, with a couple of minor changes. Butte-Silver Bow is a named responsible party for the Superfund cleanup and is one of the entities that has been involved in the ten-plus years of negotiations since the original cleanup plan was approved in 2006. Once consent is reached on the final plan, the Commissioners will again need to take up the matter and vote before the CD can be lodged with the U.S. Court. 

Also submitting comments within the original deadline was the Citizens Technical Environmental Committee (CTEC). Like Butte-Silver Bow, CTEC has been greatly involved, albeit as more of a watchdog than a participant, in the process as Butte’s technical assistance grant recipient, or “TAG” group since the beginning. A TAG is an EPA program that provides funding to community groups to contract their own, independent technical expertise to review and explain the very complicated reports and other Superfund correspondence and studies that lead to cleanup decisions and actions that affect the community. CTEC has been Butte’s qualified group for this assistance since we’ve been a Superfund site. CTEC’s comments submitted on the proposed plan were very thoughtful and should receive full consideration by EPA and the other negotiating parties before a CD is released. 

Citizens and groups wanting to submit comments on the proposed plan can do so by mailing them to EPA Superfund Records Center, Montana Office,10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200, Helena, MT 59626.Alternatively, comments may be emailed to BPSOUPPcomments@epa.gov. EPA may also decide to host another public hearing where citizens can give their comments in person, but nothing is currently planned. Likewise, Butte-Silver Bow, CTEC and others may decide to send additional comments based on input received by citizens. 

Again, the deadline to submit comments is close of business on Thursday, July 11.