US Supreme Court will hear Montana arsenic cleanup case

FILE - This Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, shows the former Anaconda smelter smokestack behind sculptures of miners at the Anaconda Smelter Stack State Park viewing area in Anaconda, Montana. Residents in the nearby community of Opportunity are suing to get the Atlantic Richfield Co. to do a more thorough cleanup of arsenic in residential yards. The Montana Supreme Court ruled in December 2017 that they could move forward with their 2008 lawsuit. Arco appealed, arguing a state lawsuit shouldn't be able to interfere with an ongoing cleanup. The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday, June 10, 2019, it will hear the appeal. (AP Photo/Matt Volz, File)

BUTTE, Mont. — The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether residents of two Montana communities can continue their decade-long effort to get the Atlantic Richfield Co. to pay for a more thorough cleanup of arsenic left on properties after a century of copper smelting.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled in December 2017 for the residents of Opportunity and Crackerville.

They sued in 2008 seeking to force Arco to reduce arsenic levels to the area's normal level, 25 parts per million.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said cleanup was required when arsenic levels were above an "acceptable" level of 250 parts per million.

Arco appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing federal law prohibited state lawsuits from interfering with an ongoing cleanup.

The Montana Standard reports the justices agreed Monday to hear Arco's appeal.

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This version corrects that cleanup was ordered when contamination was above 250 parts per million, not that cleanup was ordered to level of 250 parts per million.

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Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com

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