Superfund waste in Butte needs more than one repository

Atlantic Richfield/BP confirmed Saturday that waste excavated from sites along Silver Bow Creek in Butte will require more than one place to land.

“More than one storage location will be required to accommodate waste materials excavated from the Silver Bow Creek Conservation Area project areas,” the company said in an email.

One major reason, according to Atlantic Richfield/BP, is the many types of waste likely to occur in these areas. And if the contaminated Berkeley Pit gets the green light from EPA and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality as a single disposal site, its unique geochemistry could rule out certain types of waste.

Atlantic Richfield/BP said EPA has agreed to collect additional data to characterize waste in the Silver Bow Creek Corridor. Locations in the corridor include Diggings East, Northside Tailings, the Butte Reduction Works and others. One estimate has suggested that approximately 850,000 cubic meters of material contaminated with heavy metals and other waste would be excavated from sites within the corridor.

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“This additional data collection is in response to the consideration of the Berkeley Pit as a potential storage site,” Atlantic Richfield/BP said. “Data collected at the project sites will provide new information regarding the amount of available organic carbon, the presence of hazardous waste, and the distribution and characteristics of municipal waste and debris.

“This field analysis is ongoing at the Northside Tailings project site,” Atlantic Richfield said.

In addition, the company said current activities include conducting a geotechnical analysis “to learn more about soil properties in the Kelley Mine Area, Shields Avenue and the southern slope of the Berkeley Pit sites.”

By one definition, ‘geotechnical’ means ‘related to the practical application of geological science to civil engineering, mining and other fields. Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that studies how natural geological materials behave in technical systems.”

The company also confirmed Saturday that Atlantic Richfield/BP design teams are working to design a slurry system that can transport waste from the creek corridor.

“If used, the slurry system would transport waste from the project areas to the Berkeley Pit for disposal,” Atlantic Richfield/BP said. “The slurry system would include a pug mill to mix contaminated soil and waste with water from construction dewatering and polishing plant effluent (at Montana Resources).”

Pug Mills are mixers that quickly mix multiple materials into a relatively homogeneous mixture.

“The slurry system alignment would follow the path of upper Silver Bow Creek until it reaches the mine site,” Atlantic Richfield/BP said.

One purpose of a manure system would be to limit the number of trucks on Butte roads.

Josh Bryson of Atlantic Richfield/BP and Eric Hassler, director of reclamation and environmental services, provided a repository update to the Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners Wednesday evening

Bryson said possible storage sites include an area off Shields Avenue on Montana Resources property, the already contaminated Berkeley Pit and company-owned land north of the Kelley Mine Area bordering Centerville. The existing Butte Mine Waste Repository is also in trouble, but has relatively limited capacity.

Hassler said potential repositories must be “technically feasible, scientifically feasible and legally feasible.”

Centerville residents have expressed concern about the dumping of toxic mining, smelting and other waste near their neighborhood.

The top contaminants of concern in the Silver Bow Creek Corridor are arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc. Any waste dumped into a landfill would be covered by approximately 18 inches of soil and covered with vegetation, according to Atlantic Richfield/BP.

The company has pledged not to dump waste in the remains of the historic Dublin Gulch district. Bill Foley, a critic of the plan to locate a warehouse near Centerville, said Atlantic Richfield/BP’s current delineation of the Dublin Gulch neighborhood is too small.

Meanwhile, the company said it and Butte-Silver Bow plan to recommend one or more storage sites to EPA in October.

Placing a repository or repositories must occur before the long-awaited major cleanup of the Silver Bow Creek Corridor can begin.