MISSOULA - The Superior town council has voted unanimously to ask for federal help in assessing and cleaning up mine tailings that have contaminated the area.
Monday's 6-0 vote puts the town one step closer to being placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund national priorities list.
Mayor Mike Wood said the council will send a letter to Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who must make the formal request to the EPA after consulting with Montana's Department of Environmental Quality. The EPA determined last year that the area could benefit from a listing.
The tailings are the remnants of the Iron Mountain Mine and Mill north of Superior in the Flat Creek drainage. Residents hauled some of the soil, which contains lead and arsenic, into town over the past several decades to be used for various projects - not knowing it was polluted.
The contaminants were discovered in 2001. The following year the running track at Superior High School and more than a dozen other "hot spots" around town were cleaned up in what the EPA called a "critical removal" of an immediate threat to health.
Gwen Christiansen of the EPA's regional office in Denver said what remains is considered a long-term health risk. Testing to determine how much contamination is left could begin next summer.