Schweitzer May Ask for Smelter Superfund Status

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS – Gov. Brian Schweitzer may ask the federal Environmental Protection Agency next month to clean up lead and arsenic contamination at a defunct Great Falls smelter under Superfund authority.

The smelter’s owner opposes such a move, saying it could delay efforts to make the site safe. There’s a meeting this Tuesday, for residents of the area to provide input.

EPA testing in 2007 and 2008 found heavy metals in soils across a 78-acre area now occupied by 375 homes in Black Eagle.

Atlantic Richfield Co., which has owned the smelter since 1977, says a Superfund designation would drag out the work.

The 250-acre metals smelter and refinery complex operated near the Missouri River between 1893 and 1980, producing copper, zinc, cadmium and indium metal.

Denise Martin, with the state Department of Environmental Quality’s Remediation Division, says “We don’t know the full extent of the contamination.”