The Anaconda Smelter National Priority List (NPL) Site is located at the southern end of the Deer Lodge Valley, at and near the location of the former Anaconda Minerals Company (AMC) ore processing facilities. In September 1983, the EPA placed the area surrounding the smelter on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). Consulting with the State of Montana and coordinating with ARCO, EPA began investigations into the extent of contamination. Since then, removals and cleanup actions have reduced human health risks at the site. ARCO merged with AMC in 1977 and is the Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) at the site. ARCo's liability and EPA's costs continue to be the subject of ongoing litigation.
The data for Opportunity and Warm Springs air monitors are reported hourly, and are transmitted from the monitors via satellite link. Viewers can choose to view both current and historical data using options discussed on the following page.
The site covers an area of approximately 300 square miles. It has a temperate climate and includes a variety of terrain - from steep slope uplands to level valley floors. There are also a variety of creeks and drainages. Major mining-related features at the site include two very large tailings ponds (the Anaconda Ponds and the BP/ARCo Waste Management Area) and the former Anaconda smelter stack. At 585 feet tall, the stack is a local landmark and is the largest freestanding brick chimney in the world. There are also communities (Anaconda, Opportunity and Crackerville) within the site footprint. US Interstate 90 and the Clark Fork River border the site. The Anaconda Smelter NPL Site is divided into five (5) Operable Units (OU); two of the OUs (Anaconda Regional Waste Water & Soil (ARWW&S) and the Old Works/East Anaconda Development Area) are further divided into smaller units called Remedial Design Units (RDU).
The processing facilities at the site were developed to remove copper from ore mined in Butte from about 1884 through 1980. Milling and smelting produced wastes with high concentrations of arsenic, as well as copper, cadmium, lead and zinc. These contaminants pose potential risks to human health, wildlife, and aquatic organisms. In addition to the millions of cubic yards of tailings, furnace slag, flue dust, and square miles of soil contaminated by airborne wastes, millions of gallons of ground water have been polluted from wastes and soils. Arsenic and Lead are the primary contaminates of concern (COC) and drive the remediation.
Cleanup Over Time
The Anaconda Smelter NPL Site consists of five (5) Operable Units (OUs). These Operable Units are:
- Mill Creek OU
- Flue Dust OU
- Old Works/East Anaconda Development Area OU
- Community Soils OU
- Anaconda Regional Water, Waste & Soils OU
EPA further subdivided ARWW&S OU into Remedial Design Units (RDUs). The following are a list of RDUs:
RDU 1 – Stucky Ridge Uplands
RDU 2 – Lost Creek Uplands
RDU 3 – Smelter Hill Uplands
RDU 4 – Anaconda Ponds WMA
RDU 5 – Active Railroad/Blue Lagoons
RDU 6 – South Opportunity Ponds Uplands
RDU 7 – North Opportunity Ponds Uplands
RDU 8 – Atlantic Richfield Land Management Area (formerly Opportunity Ponds WMA)
RDU 9 – Fluvial Tailings
RDU 10 – Warm Springs Creek
RDU 11 – Cashman Concentrate
RDU 12 – Slag
RDU 13 – Old Works WMA
RDU 14 – Smelter Hill Facility Area WMA
RDU 15 – Mount Haggin Uplands
Completed Removal Actions
- Anaconda Smelter Demolition and Initial Stabilization Time Critical Removal Action - From 1983-1986, EPA oversaw smelter building demolitions and initial stabilization efforts.
- Mill Creek Time Critical Removal Action - In May 1986, EPA temporarily relocated families with small children from the Mill Creek area. In 1987-1988, all Mill Creek residents were permanently relocated. The Mill Creek area was later cleaned up, graded and replanted in 1999.
- Anaconda Yards Time Critical Removal Action - From 1991-1992, under an emergency removal action, arsenic contaminated soils were cleaned up in three Anaconda neighborhoods: Teresa Ann Terrace, Elkhorn Apartments and Cedar Park Homes.
- Old Works Stabilization Time Critical Removal Action - In 1994, approximately 275,000 cubic yards of waste material (including arsenic, cadmium, lead and zinc) from the Arbiter Plant were dug up, and moved to a repository on Smelter Hill.
- Arbiter Non-Time Critical Removal Action - In 1994, approximately 275,000 cubic yards of waste material from the Arbiter Plant were dug up, and moved to a repository on Smelter Hill.
- Beryllium Non-Time Critical Removal Action – In 1994, excavation and disposal of previously disposed wastes and contaminated materials from a former beryllium flake metal pilot plant and a beryllium oxide pilot plant was completed. The wastes were sent to the Smelter Hill repository.
Community Soils Remedial Action
EPA selected a remedial action for addressing remaining residential yards and railroads/commercial properties in 1996. This OU has been divided into sub-areas:
- Residential soils (ongoing)
- Historic Railroad Beds and Commercial and Industrial areas (Adjacent to Railroad Areas)
- Interior/Attic Dust
To date AR has sampled approximately 1500 yards, cleaned up about 225 yards in Anaconda, and cleaned up about 50 in the adjacent areas.
Anaconda Regional Water, Waste and Soils Remedial Action
ARCo continues to conduct work in the Operable Unit. EPA will continue to monitor work being conducted. This includes: reviewing data, inspecting performance of past projects, and designing for improvements (as needed). EPA is also working with the community and local officials during the process. Construction is expected to be completed over the next 15 years.
Smelter investigations and cleanups have been part of an economic rebirth in this former company town. All cleanups are focused on being protective, while still allowing (and fostering) redevelopment.
Perhaps the greatest example of reuse and redevelopment is the construction of the Old Works Golf Course. This golf course is the first course ever built on a Federal EPA Superfund site; it incorporates many historic relics in its design. Old Works is quickly building a reputation as one of the premiere, daily fee golf experiences in the Northwest region. The golf course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and a unique visual feature is the use of ground black smelter slag in place of sand in the sand traps.
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.