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Judge: Atlantic Richfield must pay 35% of Columbia Falls Aluminum cleanup costs

Outside of th CFAC Superfund Site in Columbia Falls, MT.
Nicky Ouellet
Montana Public Radio
Outside of th 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 percent 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.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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