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EPA official visits Missoula to hear concerns over Smurfit-Stone cleanup

State wildlife officials and Missoula water quality advocates say the federal government isn’t doing its job monitoring for potential toxic waste at a now defunct pulp mill. The regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency traveled to Missoula recently to hear the concerns.

Multiple companies operated the Smurfit-Stone mill near Frenchtown from 1957 to 2010, and the EPA began the Superfund cleanup process in 2011.

Community members like Jennifer Harrington have for years expressed concern that the EPA isn’t adequately sampling for toxins at the site.

“If our continual comments over the last 12 years aren’t taken seriously, the Superfund process is just going to continue down this train,” Harrington said at the meeting.

EPA Region 8 Administrator KC Becker agreed the agency's work has been flawed.

“The way this design — this study design is, is problematic. It’s a problem. It just is.”

EPA project manager Allie Archer says the Smurfit-Stone cleanup team feels it has addressed the community’s concerns.

“We’ve heard them, we’ve all talked about them, and maybe we just need people above us to make a larger decision, since the technical teams aren’t coming to terms on it,” Smurfit-Stone remedial project manager Allie Archer said.

The meeting is the latest milepost in the now decade-old process to address toxic waste left behind at the Smurfit-Stone site.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

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