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EPA, Smurfit-Stone Owners Working On PCB Removal Plan

Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.
Djembayz (CC-BY-SA-3)
Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.

The EPA gave an update Tuesday on their ongoing investigation of pollution levels at the now-defunct Smurfit-Stonepulp and paper mill just west of Missoula.

There’s still a lot to figure out at the former Smurfit-Stone mill in Frenchtown.

The plant that operated on the 3,200 acre site for over 50 years just downstream of Missoula on the Clark Fork River used all kind of hazardous chemicals.

Evidence of PCB contamination was found last year near the mill’s industrial core.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Sara Sparks told state and local officials during a routine update on Tuesday that EPA is working with the site’s current and former owners:

Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.
Credit Djembayz (CC-BY-SA-3)
Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.

"To develop a removal plan to address that on-site contamination. We hope to complete that removal of the PCB contamination by the end of 2017."

Sparks confirmed three deep groundwater-monitoring wells were installed last month. Data culled from those wells will be made public once it becomes available.

County officials and local environmental groups are also concerned about two berms separating the river from the plant’s old holding ponds. They worry a breach in those berms could sweep contamination downstream.

Sparks says EPA is again trying to work with the mill’s former and current owners to address those concerns:

"Looking at, not only routine inspections of the berms, but an investigation of the stability of the berms. With that could come a contingency plan."

EPA officials could not give a specific timeline, saying negotiations are ongoing.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.