Environmental & Public Health
In 1882, a rich copper vein was discovered in nearby Butte. As part of the mining process, a smelter was needed to refine the copper ore. An area only 25 miles west and north of the ore body with adequate space and an abundant water supply, was chosen for the smelter site. By 1883, the Town of Anaconda was planned and quickly grew. A giant concentrator and smelter facilities rose on the north side of Warm Springs Creek. By 1890, Anaconda boasted a diverse population of about 8,000 people.
For over 100 years copper dominated Anaconda and community life revolved around the smelter. Even though the era ended when the smelter operations ceased in 1980, the community continued to face the environmental and public health issues left by the smelter. Soil, water, and dust within and around the Town of Anaconda were contaminated with arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. In 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed Anaconda-Deer Lodge County on the National Priorities List (NPL), also known as Superfund. Although there were initial losses in the economy, population, school enrollment, and tax revenues caused by the stigma of cleanup and Superfund, the county has survived and is rebounding. Today, residents share pride in the character of the community, and in the fact that they are as vital and resilient as ever.
To learn more about environmental health issues, and the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site, please visit the U.S. EPA Region 8 Anaconda Smelter Company Site.