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DOJ Asks Judge To Lift Gag Order On Anaconda Superfund Cleanup Deal

Anaconda smelter stack.
Nora Saks

Anaconda residents are one step closer to finding out more details about the final Superfund cleanup deal and plan that’s been under wraps for the last four months.

At the end of July, the parties in charge of negotiating a final cleanup deal for the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site announced they had reached a draft agreement, just under the wire of a deadline set by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda.
Credit Nora Saks
The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda.

But they couldn’t reveal any details to the public about what was in it, because of a pre-existing court gag order covering those Superfund settlement negotiations, which was also the case in Butte.

Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of EPA and the Atlantic Richfield Company, filed a motion to lift part of that confidentiality order.

Chris Wardell is the community involvement coordinator for EPA Region 8.

“This is the first step in the process," Wardell says, "but in the coming months we’ll have a similar rollout process like we did in Butte; a public meeting and a chance for the public to review and comment on what we actually can release when we’re allowed to do so.”

Wardell said the parties negotiating the cleanup agreement, which include EPA, Atlantic Richfield, the state of Montana, and Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, are now waiting for a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Sam Haddon.

The Anaconda Smelter Site has been on the Superfund National Priority List since 1983.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Nora Saks is a freelance radio and print journalist investigating themes of environmental justice in the Crown of the Continent and beyond.