American Smelting and Refining Co. said in a Montana lawsuit filed earlier this month that Atlantic Richfield Co. concealed pollution-related documents during the sale of Atlantic Richfield’s zinc fuming plant to Asarco that led to legal problems with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Asarco filed a civil lawsuit in Helena District Court alleging breach of contract, saying Atlantic Richfield failed to tell it or the Environmental Protection Agency of pollution caused by the zinc plant located on Asarco-owned land in East Helena. The zinc plant operated for 45 years under ARCO before Asarco bought it in 1972.
The lawsuit says that during the 1972 sale agreement, which included Atlantic Richfield’s agreement to compensate Asarco for cleanup costs, Atlantic Richfield failed to provide critical documents that showed discharges of hazardous substances into groundwater.
Atlantic Richfield said it operated a closed non-contact cooling water system that did not discharge pollution, according to the lawsuit.
In 1984, the EPA listed the smelter property and surrounding residential areas of East Helena for the National Priorities List for Superfund site designation, identifying Asarco and Atlantic Richfield as potentially responsible parties.
In the lawsuit, Asarco alleges that it was found as the only liable party because of the concealment by Atlantic Richfield, the Independent Record reported.
In 2005, Asarco filed for bankruptcy and in 2009, settled environmental claims. Asarco has paid more than $138 million for cleanup at the site, the lawsuit said.
An attorney for Asarco, Adam Duerk of Missoula, declined to comment on the lawsuit. A phone call seeking comment from Atlantic Richfield’s parent company, BP, was not returned Friday.
EPA project manager Betsy Burns said the lawsuit should not have any impact on the cleanup of the site because of federal laws governing cleanup obligations.
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