Stakeholders urge the state to stay involved in the Smurfit-Stone cleanup planning
Scientists and Frenchtown residents Monday provided state lawmakers with a day-long crash course on a Superfund site just downstream of Missoula. The hearing focused on the former Smurfit-Stone pulp mill.
Missoula Democratic Rep. Jonathan Karlen told fellow lawmakers on the Environmental Quality Council that the state has a major role to play in the Superfund cleanup of the Smurfit-Stone site. The Legislature earlier this year approved Karlen’s bill to study how it could get involved.
“We want a thorough cleanup and we want a timely cleanup,” Karlen said. “But, what that looks like — right now, we’re sort of at a crossroads.”
Karlen was referring to an ongoing debate between Missoula County scientists, residents and federal officials over how best to study the grounds of the pulp mill. The Environmental Protection Agency has been sampling the 3,200 acre site for nearly a decade. Some community members say the agency has failed to capture just how toxic the grounds are.
The Smurfit-Stone mill pumped water and waste laced with cancer-causing chemicals into the Clark Fork River and its floodplain for more than half a century.
Hydrogeologist Elena Evans with Missoula County urged the state to stay at the table while sampling continues. She cited the removal of the Milltown Dam as an example of what can happen when state, federal and local partners work together on solutions.
“The more we all work together to get to that solution, then the better off our community is, and the more vibrant and vital it is,” Evans told lawmakers.
Some lawmakers echoed community frustration over the slow pace of the study. Allie Archer with the EPA said the agency is committed to responding to community concerns as it conducts more sampling of the site.
The agency may not wrap up its investigation until 2025. After that, officials will explore possible cleanup options.
The federal government said it will evaluate how climate change could inform future cleanup decisions at the Smurfit-Stone Superfund site near Missoula.
How toxic are the grounds of a former pulp mill along the Clark Fork River? It’s a question with an answer more than a decade in the making, and one that will determine how the site’s hundreds of acres of unlined waste ponds are cleaned up.
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 EPA traveled to Missoula recently to hear the concerns.
The ongoing partial government shutdown has scuttled an upcoming meeting between Missoula County and the Environmental Protection Agency.That meeting was…