Superfund Basics

An autumn view of a restored Silver Bow Creek.

An autumn view of a restored Silver Bow Creek.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, was enacted by Congress on December 11, 1980. This law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. The articles in this section will help you make sense of the very technical and bureaucratic Superfund process.

In the case of western Montana, the Superfund law paved the way for the remediation and restoration of much of the environment that was damaged by over a century of mining and smelting in the Butte and Anaconda areas and downstream on the Clark Fork River.

Mining-related environmental damages in western Montana are categorized by site and organized by the EPA into different “Operable Units,” or OUs. The urban Butte area contains several such operable units. These sometimes overlap geographically, and are separated based on the types of contaminants present or other factors. Silver Bow Creek represents another operable unit, referred to by the EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality as the Streamside Tailings operable unit. The situation in western Montana is complicated by the fact that these different operable units interact with one another in different ways.

For more information on Superfund, visit the EPA CERCLA website. Use the dropdown menu at the top of the page to read more on different Superfund topics or to explore specific Superfund sites in Butte and western Montana. For definitions of technical and scientific terms, refer to the Superfund Glossary. Many documents related to ongoing cleanup and the history of Superfund in the region are available to download via the Superfund Library.

CTEC is also available to provide assistance in answering questions about Superfund and environmental cleanup, and to help citizens submit comments and make their voices heard in the EPA decision-making process. Contact us with any questions or to request assistance. To directly contact officials from EPA and other organizations involved in the cleanup, visit the Superfund Contacts page. You can also leave comments and questions on any page or post on the CTEC website, and we will respond as soon as possible.

Superfund Sites in western Montana, from Butte to Missoula. Historic mining and smelting caused serious damage to the environment and public health of the region. Cleanup is ongoing across the basin. Superfund sites are further divided into Operable Units. Map from the EPA Five Year Review of the Butte/Silver Bow Creek Superfund Site, Part 6: Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit, Figures.

Superfund Sites in western Montana, from Butte to Missoula. Historic mining and smelting caused serious damage to the environment and public health of the region. Cleanup is ongoing across the basin. Superfund sites are further divided into Operable Units. Map from the EPA Five Year Review of the Butte/Silver Bow Creek Superfund Site, Part 6: Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit, Figures.

The video below shows a Google Earth flyover of the Butte and Clark Fork River Superfund area. Maps of individual Superfund Sites and Operable Units can be found on the specific pages for each location.

 

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