Can Local Citizens Impact EPA’s Decision?

Butte miners. The city of Butte, Montana built its community identity on its close connection to mining and hard work. Today, the city is redefining its identity, still committed to hard work, now applied to undo over a century of environmental damage.

Butte miners. The city of Butte, Montana built its community identity on its close connection to mining and hard work. Today, the city is redefining its identity, still committed to hard work, now applied to undo over a century of environmental damage.

Absolutely. The Superfund process allows for public input through scheduled meetings at critical points in the process, but anyone can write letters or e-mail the EPA and their state Governor and legislators at any point. Comments sent to the EPA are compiled for consideration. They need not be long. They need only give your opinion on the issue.

Contact information for EPA and other agency personnel associated with cleanup can be found on the Superfund Contacts page, or the EPA Butte Superfund page. You can also contact CTEC and we can help you with the submission process or submit comments on your behalf.

Briefly, here are the steps followed to determine cleanup.

1. Site Designation. Site is determined to contain hazardous waste that poses a threat to human health and/or the environment.

2. Data is collected during the Remedial Investigation for:

  • characterization of site conditions;
  • determination of the nature of the waste;
  • assessment of risks to the environment and human health;
  • conduct testing to determine the cost and performance potential of different technologies being considered.

3. The Feasibility Study (FS) provides all parties (PRP, EPA, State) the means to develop, screen and evaluate in detail alternative remedial actions. The RI and FS are conducted concurrently. Data collected during the RI influences the remedial alternatives developed in the FS, which in turn affects the data required in the RI and scope of treatability studies.

4. The FS is reviewed by the EPA and the site’s Technical Assistance Committee (TAC). These two groups compare the study to their own data and interpretations.

5. Questions and comments are submitted to the PRP by the EPA and TAC.

6. Taking these questions and comments into account, the PRP then issues a final Feasibility Study to the EPA. This study includes a range of options for cleanup and proposes a specific option to be selected by the EPA.

7. The EPA releases the FS to the public.

8. At this point, a public comment period is established. During this period, it is absolutely vital that local citizens express their views. State government and local community acceptance are two of the criteria considered by the EPA.

9. Once the comment period closes (usually 4 to 6 weeks after it begins), the EPA reviews the public comments and creates a Proposed Plan.

10. Again, a series of meetings is held where the public and interested parties can comment on the Proposed Plan (though changes at this point are typically minimal and have more to do with implementation rather than substance).

11. After the comment period has ended, the EPA considers the comments, makes revisions as it deems necessary, and issues a Record of Decision. The Record of Decision provides cleanup guidelines and procedures. Specific details about the cleanup process are then determined through negotiations between the EPA, the State, local government, and the PRPs for the site. The final document produced by these negotiations is referred to as the Consent Decree. In the case of the Superfund sites around the Upper Clark Fork River, negotiations are still underway for many sites, and have been ongoing in some cases for a decade or more.

 

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