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2024 Montana Primary elections

Columbia Falls Aluminum Smelter Cleanup Hits A Snag

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Courtesy EPA

Efforts to clean up the shuttered Columbia Falls Aluminum Company smelter have hit a snag.

State and federal officials will brief the residents in Columbia Falls Thursday.

Montana’s Department of Environmental quality wanted to speed up the process that could qualify the closed smelter for federal “Superfund” cleanup money.

Before state inspectors could assess the problem in detail, the company would have to sign a consent decree, according to DEQ attorney William Kirley.

“The agency has a responsibility to be sure that it’s done correctly, and to be able to do that, you have to retain your authorities."

But the Company wasn’t willing to take that step, calling it premature.

That means the federal EPA will be in charge of the probe, which could add months or years to the process. The plant closed in 2009, and hopes are dimming that it will ever reopen.

State and federal officials will meet with Columbia Falls residents Thursday night for a progress report.

Read the Montana DEQ press release about Thursday's meeting.

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