Soon after settling in Butte in 1990, Montana Tech professor and environmental historian Pat Munday became interested and involved in Superfund issues. For many years, he worked with groups such as the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee and Trout Unlimited to promote remedies protective of human and environmental health. Now that the remedies, or Records of Decision, have been completed on most sites in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin, it’s time to step back and examine Superfund as a social and political process.
“As America’s largest Superfund site, this is a story the nation needs to know,” Munday explains. The National Science Foundation agrees, and has awarded Munday a two-year grant to study the role of citizens in shaping Superfund remedy at several sites in the upper Clark Fork. The grant is a Science & Society Scholar Award, and will also support a graduate research assistant in the Technical Communication master’s program.
“Once remedies are implemented, the total cost of Superfund in this area will far exceed one billion dollars,” Munday said. “The sheer amount of money is just one indicator of how hard citizens, grassroots organizations, and activist scientists worked to try and persuade the Environmental Protection Agency and ARCO-British Petroleum to do the right thing.” In his study, Munday will compare the relative effectiveness of citizens in shaping remedy at major sites such as Milltown Dam, Anaconda Community Soils, and Butte Priority Soils. His thesis is that public participation works, with the extent of public participation more or less correlating with the quality of clean-up.