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Public health and safety a priority during East Helena Smelter stack demolition on August 14

Release Date: 08/12/2009
Contact Information: EPA Montana Office, 406-457-5025; Iver Johnson, Montana DEQ, 406-444-5852

(Denver, Colo.-- August 12, 2009) Many precautions are being taken on Friday, August 14th, to ensure that the demolition of the three historic East Helena Smelter stacks does not pose a hazard to residents or onlookers. The U.S. EPA, Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Lewis & Clark City County Health and Environmental Service Divisions are teaming up to ensure that public health and safety is a top priority and is carefully coordinated with Asarco and its demolition contractors.

As Asarco makes final plans for the demolition of three process unit stacks at the East Helena lead smelter on August 14, EPA, DEQ and Lewis and Clark City County government are coordinating with Asarco and the City of East Helena to make sure that all public safety precautions are taken and public health is considered.

Jon Nickel, Asarco’s environmental manager, said they expect to detonate explosives to bring down the three stacks simultaneously at 7:30 a.m. Friday, the 14th. Of particular note is the possibility that the date or time of demolition may change if the weather conditions are not favorable i.e., if the wind blows at more than 5 mph. This is a necessary health and safety precaution.
The Director of EPA’s Montana Office, John Wardell, emphasized that “taking the stacks down safely is the top priority of public health officials. We will ensure the demolition is completed in a safe manner. EPA understands the historical significance of the stacks to Montana’s mining heritage.”

Asarco, in coordination with the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff and East Helena Police Department, will set up a perimeter around the demolition area. The public may not enter this “exclusion zone.” Several road closures occurring at 6:30 a.m. on Friday should prevent vehicles from entering the exclusion zone. Law enforcement and security officials will also be posted on the perimeter to ensure that the public does get beyond a safe viewing distance.

Dust control measures will be implemented as a top priority before, during and after the demolition. To minimize the amount of dust generated from the stacks’ impact with the ground, the demolition company, Cleveland Wrecking Company (CWC), will use the Godwin Water Distribution System to minimize the dust and make it difficult for the dust cloud to move through the air. The system will be turned on just prior to the felling of the stack to create a curtain of water mist around the impact area. The system also will be used to wet the stack debris once the stacks are on the ground.
DEQ Air Resources Management will locate particulate matter (PM) air monitoring samplers at four separate locations surrounding the demolition area. Continuous monitoring data results will provide documentation of the PM concentration and the monitoring filters will allow for later laboratory analysis.

Air monitoring sites include the eastern (Hwy 518 Site) and western (Rodeo Site) edges of the former smelter site. Monitoring sites will also be located along the southern edge of East Helena (Fire Hall Site) and approximately mile east of the US 12/287 and Highway 518 junction at East Helena Rental (EH Rental Site). EH Rental and Fire Hall Sites are accessible to the general public and thus represent ambient air.

Anyone with questions about the health and safety precautions can call Iver Johnson at the DEQ at 444-5852 or Asarco’s Environmental Manager, Jon Nickel at 227-4529.

Additional information on air monitoring and the demolition process is available at the East Helena Lead Education and Abatement Program Office at 2 South Morton St. (across from the Fire Hall) in East Helena. You may also call Jan Williams or Debb Tillo in that office at 227-8451.