Missoula County commissioners have sent a letter to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer asking him to support putting the former Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. mill site in Frenchtown on the Superfund National Priorities List.
Commissioners sent the letter last week, saying that the listing would allow the remedial investigation and cleanup process to begin soon, the Missoulian reported.
In a separate letter also sent on Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked Schweitzer for a written response on whether Montana supports putting the site on the list. The federal agency asked Schweitzer to respond by Dec. 21 so the site can be considered.
The federal agency said the site has potentially dangerous levels of dioxins, heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals.
Commissioners said they’re concerned the site poses a health risk to people as well as to the Clark Fork River, and that several landfills, sludge ponds and an emergency spill pond contain toxins that could be released during a flood.
“Those areas are at risk of catastrophic release by a large flood,” the commissioners wrote. “Contamination at the site needs to be managed before a large flood creates a more widespread problem. Erosion of contaminated materials from the site during floods would have potentially significant impacts on fish and wildlife, wetlands, human health, and agricultural lands. We request that the industrial waste and sludge be removed from the flood plain environment and disposed of in a lined and capped facility as an expedited action.”
Smurfit-Stone went bankrupt in 2009, and the company in 2010 closed the mill. The site was then purchased by MLR Investment, which then sold it to Green Investment Group Inc. in May 2011.
The site contains a 100-acre industrial complex bordered by 900 acres of settling, sludge and wastewater ponds, all located in the Clark Fork’s flood plain.
“We’d like to see the cleanup proceed,” Missoula County Chief Administrative Officer Dale Bickell said. “There are 138 acres in the flood plain where we need to be focused on. But we also want to do some quick assessments of areas that haven’t been industrial in the past, so we can determine what if any work is required. That could potentially keep those areas out of the long-term listing and speed up redevelopment.”