More than 50 people showed up Wednesday to hear the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s response to a recent report showing that Butte residents are prone to higher rates of disease because of pollutants.
But Paul Babb, Butte-Silver Bow chief executive, called off the meeting with EPA officials, ARCO and local government leaders because it hadn’t been legally noticed as a public hearing.
“I don’t want to be in violation of the open meeting laws,” he said. “We need to make sure that the public knows about the meeting and that the public can give comments.”
The meeting was scheduled as an information session with the EPA, ARCO, local government and the public. It was prompted by a doctoral dissertation written by Stacie Barry, Energy Services operations director at the National Center for Appropriate Technology, who earned her doctorate degree at the University of Montana.
Her study looked at the causes of death in Butte from 1978 to 2006 and found that people in Butte are prone to higher rates of cancer and other diseases.
It has caused some Butte residents to question how effective EPA’s cleanup of the mining pollutants has been.
Julie DalSoglio, EPA Montana director, defended the agency’s efforts in a recent editorial in The Montana Standard. She said at the brief meeting that the agency will be bringing a federal doctor who specializes in environmental health to address the concerns about pollutants in Butte.
But several people who attended the scheduled meeting questioned why it didn’t go forward.
John Ray, a Tech professor and member of the Citizens Technical Environmental Committee, said without any specific proposal there was no reason to delay the meeting. And he said the large turnout shows that
people in Butte are concerned with the EPA’s cleanup of the area.
“If it’s simply an informational meeting and you have public interest, why close it?” he said. “If your case is sound, you shouldn’t be afraid of presenting it to the public.”
Babb said a makeup meeting will be announced and held soon.
— Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org