Editor's note: In the preparation of the accompanying story on BP's financial picture, The Montana Standard asked several questions of BP about the work it has already done in Butte and what remains. Here is a statement in response from BP spokesman Brett Clanton, on behalf of Atlantic Richfield:
"Atlantic Richfield (AR) has worked diligently over the last 35 years on remediation and restoration in the Butte area. As a result of that work, along with the work of dedicated government officials and experts, we believe the environment in Butte has been transformed.
"At the beginning of the investigation process, large portions of Butte Hill contained exposed and barren areas of mining waste, and Silver Bow Creek exceeded state water quality standards virtually all of the time. Since then, AR has worked with federal, state and local agencies and other liable parties to perform extensive remediation that includes work to: 1) cap, contain and revegetate approximately 200 or more waste rock dumps and other areas of exposed material at former mining, milling and smelting sites, to prevent that material from eroding into Silver Bow Creek; 2) remove ~ 1.2 million cubic yards of material from the floodplain along Silver Bow Creek; 3) install systems to capture and treat contaminated groundwater to prevent it from entering the creek; and 4) install other systems to capture and keep potentially contaminated storm water away from the creek. As a result of that work, formerly barren areas of Butte Hill are covered with grass and shrubs, fish have returned to the creek corridor, and Silver Bow Creek meets water quality standards most of the time. There has been a tremendous improvement in the quality of the environment.
"Although we have made great progress in remediation and restoration in Butte, we recognize that the job is not finished, and some additional work is needed to complete the remedy that EPA selected for this area in 2006. However, as you know, EPA did not select a remedy that requires the removal of all material … in the area of the upper Silver Bow Creek drainage.
"In particular, when EPA selected a remedy for the Butte Priority Soils area in 2006, it evaluated the option of spending several hundred million dollars on a remedy that would try to excavate and remove all waste from the floodplain in Butte. EPA found that such excavation would be very difficult and would have little environmental benefit. It would not clean up the groundwater, nor eliminate the need for and cost of a system to collect and treat groundwater.
"Federal law requires EPA to look at whether a remedy option is a cost effective and technically feasible way to achieve a cleanup goal, and the full removal remedy option was not found to be a cost effective or feasible way to clean up the water in Silver Bow Creek.
"EPA has selected final remedies for the Butte Priority Soils and Butte Mine Flooding (Berkeley Pit) operable units, and AR has reserves (provisions) to pay for the estimated cost of those remedies. In addition, AR has funded a series of trust accounts that allow the city and county of Butte-Silver Bow to implement portions of the Butte Priority Soils remedy at AR's expense. We have in the past and will continue to work with the EPA and State of Montana to meet our environmental obligations in full as outlined in the selected remedies.
"AR has been implementing the environmental remedies under EPA oversight. AR has invested significant resources in environmental improvement in Montana. We are proud of what we have accomplished, and we are committed to finishing the job we have started. Our employees live in this community and raise their families here. AR is committed to protect human health and the environment in all the communities where we work."