Consent decree requires cleanup of mining contamination in Butte, Montana

June 12, 2020
United States and Montana lodge $150 million settlement with Atlantic Richfield

BUTTE, MT — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Justice Department announce the lodging today of a proposed consent decree in federal District Court that would require Atlantic Richfield to undertake or finance over $150 million of clean-up work at the Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit (BPSOU) site in Montana. This settlement agreement provides the framework for the continued cleanup of mining-related contamination, will protect public health and the environment, and provide enhanced community benefits through the implementation of park-like amenities along the Silver Bow Creek Corridor.  

“This has been a long time coming for the people of Butte; while we still have work to do I am confident that we will meet our deadline of 2027 for completing all of this work and beginning the process of delisting Butte from the National Priorities list in 2024,” said EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento. “The community needs to continue to hold EPA accountable until that is done.”

“This Consent Decree is an opportunity to move forward together to put our energy and resources towards final cleanup and actions that will enhance Butte for decades to come,” said EPA Region 8 Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “I congratulate the County for voting to sign this agreement, allowing us to move quickly to lodge the document with the District Court. This will initiate the final public comment process, required as part of the Court’s consideration.

“This Consent Decree closes a long chapter in our history,” said Kurt Alme, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. “These actions will clean up stretches of Silver Bow Creek and Blacktail Creek and provide important recreational benefits for area residents to enjoy.  We look forward to it proceeding quickly.”

The cleanup activities required under the consent decree include removal of contaminated tailings at the Northside and Diggings East Tailings areas along with contaminated sediments and additional floodplain contamination from Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks.  It also requires more extensive treatment of contaminated storm water before it flows into the creeks, and the capture and treatment of additional contaminated groundwater. Atlantic Richfield will provide financial assurances for future cleanup actions.

The proposed consent decree was filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The comment period will begin when a notice of the settlement is published in the Federal Register. Information on submitting comments is available at

To learn more about this settlement, visit Paper copies of the Consent Decree are available at the Montana Tech Library (1300 W. Park St.) and Citizens Technical Environmental Committee (27 W. Park St.) for public review.

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