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Montana Approves Part Of Colstrip Ash Pond Cleanup

Four tall stacks billow white steam into a blue sky
Jackie Yamanaka
Yellowstone Public Radio
The Colstrip Steam Electric Station

Montana is approving part of a plan to clean up groundwater contaminated by waste storage ponds at the Colstrip coal fired power plant after receiving more than 400 comments on the clean-up proposal.

The Department of Environmental Quality on June 8 announced it's conditionally approving plant operator Talen Montana’s plan to expand an existing groundwater flush-and-capture system and drain two of the ponds used to store waste from Colstrip Units 1 and 2.

Talen must submit more than $16 million as financial assurance.

DEQ still needs to sign off on a plan to address the source of contamination: unlined ponds that have been leaking elevated levels of boron, chloride and sulfate into groundwater since the 1970s. The agency is asking Talen to consider excavating the Stage 2 ponds. Talen previously proposed capping and closing them.

DEQ has already approved clean up plans for the plant site and the coal ash ponds for Units 3 and 4.