Atlantic Richfield Co. has agreed to pay $1 million to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for managing the Superfund site at the former Black Eagle smelter.
“It really allows us to have a special account to do oversight of the responsible party’s activities,” said EPA spokesman Charlie Coleman. “Right now, with budgets the way they are, our abilities could be limited.”
The federal agency also named Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. a responsible party and ordered it to investigate pollution in a railway bed, according to The Great Falls Tribune in a story published Thursday.
The property was acquired by Anaconda Copper in 1910 and purchased by Atlantic Richfield Co. in 1977. Smelting and refining operations occurred from 1893 to the 1970s.
Contamination from the operations was dispersed from the site’s 506-foot-tall smokestack, which operated before pollution control technology became common. The stack was designed to eject a volume of 1.5 million cubic feet of air per minute.
The EPA a year ago put the former copper smelter and refinery on the Superfund list. Testing has looked for 14 heavy metals, including zinc, cadmium, arsenic and lead.
Except for 1,200 cubic yards of soils with heavy metals at the Moose Lodge property, cleanup work has yet to begin. Coleman said ARCO took 2,000 soil samples from 90 yards in Black Eagle last fall, and that a report is being prepared.
“I don’t think I have seen anything significantly different from earlier data,” Coleman said.
More testing is planned this spring and summer at Black Eagle, and additional testing outside Black Eagle, where winds could have carried emissions.
“If there are contaminants that pose a risk to the community, they will be cleaned up,” Coleman said. “We want to minimize or eliminate exposure to the contaminants that could cause a risk.”