By Katy Spence
The Berkeley Pit near Butte’s Greeley Neighborhood.
It’s been the talk of the town – in a recent story by Wilson Criscione of InvestigateWest, emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal a surprising connection between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Butte’s active mining company, Montana Resources.
For more than two years, MEIC has worked with some members in Butte’s Greeley neighborhood to get answers about the health implications of living next to a dusty heavy metal mine. A May 2022 presentation to the Butte-Silver Bow Health Study Advisory Committee (HSAC) by an expert hired by MEIC shined a light on faulty assumptions with 2021 air quality research in the area.
The presenter, Dr. Ron Sahu, offered a number of recommendations for moving forward, including that Montana Resources and the local government collect data informed by the active mine’s actual activities to better determine its impacts on the community. He also suggested the HSAC set up a steering committee of diverse local stakeholders (or further empower the HSAC) to oversee this research and activity.
In addition, the Greeley Neighborhood Community Development Corporation (GNCDC) sent a letter to the HSAC outlining steps based upon Dr. Sahu’s recommendations that could be taken to
begin studying the dust and its potential impact to public health.
Several months passed without a response to the GNCDC’s inquiries and requests.
In February, GNCDC and MEIC published an op- ed in the Montana Standard. In it, we outlined these recommended steps forward and made an earnest plea to the HSAC and Montana Resources that a solution could be found if we all worked together.
Just a week later, the InvestigateWest story was published in High Country News. Beyond the expected involvement of Montana Resources employees, local academics, and the Greeley residents, EPA was prominently featured in the story for its questionable activities in attempting to discredit active scientific research on potential health impacts in Butte.
EPA’s involvement is especially troublesome, being that the agency firmly denies any responsibility for regulating or managing the active mining in Butte. The active copper and molybdenum mine is adjacent to one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States (which EPA does play a lead role in managing) as well as the Greeley neighborhood.
As the story develops, MEIC is dedicated to the people in the Greeley neighborhood and will continue to work with and support them in their efforts to find some accountability and answers about what toxins they may be breathing.
This article was published in the March 2023 issue of Down To Earth.