- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A manufacturer of copper and zinc products in East Helena has agreed to limit its use of wells that tap into lead- and arsenic-contaminated water beneath a Superfund site, according to a proposed settlement with federal environmental regulators.

American Chemet Corp. employs 126 people and sits adjacent to the site of a decommissioned lead smelter formerly owned by Asarco that contaminated the site and the land of surrounding businesses and homes for decades. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated it a Superfund site in the 1980s, and has spent the decades regulating the cleanup.

The agreement between the EPA and American Chemet is meant to help stop or reduce the underground plumes of contaminated water from expanding from the site. Injecting or withdrawing groundwater could affect the size, shape and direction the plume travels.

The deal was signed in June, and recently filed in U.S. District Court in Helena for a judge’s approval.

American Chemet has already completed much of the work outlined in the agreement, which is called a consent decree, said Allan Payne, an attorney for the company.

American Chemet has capped five water wells and agreed to limit the use of another well to 7 gallons per minute. The deal also includes a ban on consuming the groundwater, installing any new wells on the property and any activities that could expose the contamination in the soil and groundwater.

The agreement requires American Chemet to put up a $100,000 bond to guarantee the work.

The Montana Environmental Trust Group now owns the former smelter site after Asarco filed for bankruptcy and is conducting the cleanup under EPA oversight.

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