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EPA provides additional $250K for Lewis and Clark County lead assistance program at East Helena Superfund site

Support for locally led efforts to protect human health

Contact Information: 
Richard Mylott (

DENVER—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided Lewis and Clark County $250,000 to support the county’s Lead Education and Assistance Program in East Helena, Montana. The county will use these funds to perform lead assessments in homes, conduct blood-lead sampling, and implement institutional controls and a soils ordinance as part of the remedy at the East Helena Superfund site.  

Since 2012, EPA has awarded $1.8M to the county for the lead assistance program through a cooperative agreement.  The county’s program was originally funded by Asarco, which conducted lead and zinc smelting operations at the East Helena site until 2001.

“Lewis and Clark County’s Lead Education and Assistance Program offers a model for effectively addressing risks associated with residual lead and arsenic contamination,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “The additional resources we are providing today reflect EPA’s commitment to helping communities secure public health and revitalize contaminated sites.”

The purpose of the Lead Education and Assistance Program is to help residents near the East Helena Superfund site prevent health risks associated with exposure to lead. The county’s program will use EPA funds to continue education and outreach activities and the safe management of soils over the course of the next five years.

The program conducts home assessments and blood-lead sampling and administers a local soils ordinance, adopted in 2012, to ensure the safe management and disposal of contaminated soil. To date, contaminated topsoil has been removed and replaced from 786 residential yards, 50 commercial properties, 373 unpaved road aprons, 75 unpaved alleys, 14 unpaved roadways, 11 parks/public areas, 4 school playgrounds or church properties, 141 flood channel sections, 80 flood ditch sections, 4 parking lots and 38 vacant lots. The county’s sampling has confirmed that children’s blood lead levels in East Helena have declined significantly and are similar to levels observed in the U.S. 

The East Helena site includes a lead smelter that operated from 1888 until 2001, the town of East Helena, several residential subdivisions and surrounding agricultural lands. For more than 100 years, lead and zinc smelting operations conducted by Asarco deposited heavy metals, arsenic and other hazardous chemicals into the soil, surface water and groundwater. 

As a result of recent cleanup actions, all structures at the former smelter have been demolished and contaminated soils and materials have been consolidated and covered with a 62-acre protective layer to prevent rain and snow water from seeping through and contaminating groundwater. Contaminated water from onsite water bodies has been drained, reducing groundwater flowing through contaminated site soils. In addition, Prickly Pear Creek, which runs through the former smelter property, has been restored and 50 acres of wetlands have been created at the site.

For more information on the East Helena site:

More on Lewis and Clark county’s lead program: