How Does EPA Decide on a Cleanup Option?

Superfund decisions in Butte and western Montana have historically been reached only after lengthy deliberations between EPA, the Potentially Responsible Parties for the cleanup, Butte-Silver Bow local government, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and other state agencies. For some Operable Units in the Butte area, full cleanup decisions, typically referred to as Records of Decision, have not yet been finalized. A further Consent Decree between the Responsible Parties  and EPA is also typically required before cleanup activities move forward.

The situation is further complicated in western Montana, because in addition to EPA-mandated cleanup, parts of the region are being more-thoroughly restored through funds from a successful State of Montana lawsuit against some of the Potentially Responsible Parties. Those funds are administered by the Montana Natural Resource Damages Program (NRDP), a division of the Department of Justice.

Per EPA, the agency follows nine evaluation criteria to determine a cleanup option:

  • (A) Overall protection of human health and the environment.
  • (B) Compliance with applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (ARARs) under federal environmental laws and state environmental or facility siting laws.
  • (C) Long-term effectiveness and permanence.
  • (D) Reduction of toxicity, mobility or volume through treatment.
  • (E) Short-term effectiveness.
  • (F) Implementability. The ease or difficulty of implementing the alternatives must be assessed.
  • (G) Cost. The types of costs that shall be assessed include the following: (1) Capital costs, including both direct and indirect costs; (2) Annual operation and maintenance costs; and (3) Net present value of capital and O&M costs.
  • (H) State acceptance. Assessment of state concerns can’t be completed until comments on the Feasibility Study are received. The state concerns include the following: (1) The state’s position and key concerns related to the preferred alternative and other alternatives; and (2) State comments on ARARs or the proposed use of waivers.
  • (I) Community acceptance. This assessment includes determining which components of the alternatives interested persons in the community support, have reservations about, or oppose. This assessment may not be completed until comments on the proposed plan are received. (NOTE: This is separate and distinct from the public’s ability to comment on the process or on what alternatives it wants implemented. Therefore, the public may comment at any time to the Governor and EPA!)

If you are interested in commenting on a cleanup decision by EPA or other agencies involved in the environmental cleanup of western Montana, visit the Superfund Contacts page for contact details.


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