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Judge: Former owner must pay 35% of Columbia Falls aluminum cleanup costs

Outside of the CFAC Superfund Site in Columbia Falls, MT.
Nicky Ouellet
Montana Public Radio/File photo
Outside of the CFAC Superfund Site in Columbia Falls, MT.

A federal judge has ruled that a former owner of an aluminum smelter outside of Columbia Falls is partially responsible for the financial costs of cleaning up the hazardous waste at the site.

The Missoula District Court ruling from late September says the Atlantic Richfield Company is responsible for 35% of both past and future costs associated with cleaning up the defunct aluminum smelter site along the Flathead River. The CFAC Superfund site covers about 960 acres north of the river, where the aluminum plant operated from the mid 1950s to 2009.

John Strazio is a spokesperson for the site's current owner, Columbia Falls Aluminum Company. He says CFAC sued Atlantic Richfield after it refused to participate in the Superfund process initiated by federal environmental regulators.

ARCO was ordered by the court to pay about $4 million for past cleanup costs and will pay for a little over a third of future cleanup, which CFAC says could cost roughly $57 million.

ARCO was not able to provide a comment by deadline.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.