The Missoula County Commissioners have drafted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality citing their concerns about the pollution that has accumulated over the last 50 years at the former Smurfit-Stone mill site in Frenchtown.

With the Clark Fork River at flood stage, there is a very real danger that the flood waters might breach the protective berms where the collected waste has been buried, thus sending contaminants downstream in the Clark Fork River.

Following are some of their concerns in the letter:

  • We don't know the volume of industrial wastes in the dumps, which is information needed to evaluate reasonable alternatives for the cleanup.
  • The contents of the dumps are not well characterized because EPA and DEQ have required only sparse soil and groundwater samples.
  • The unlined dumps are saturated in groundwater, but the investigation has not determined when peak seasonal groundwater occurs or sampled monitoring wells at that time.
  • Landfill gases have not been assessed as required by state and federal law.
  • The stability of the inner gravel berms surrounding the dumps has not been assessed. A report on the outer berms has not yet been completed.

Read the letter from the County Commissioners below:

The letter closes with the following statement:

‘Missoula County's goals remain: Eliminate all public safety and health risks; restore the river and the floodplain; hold the polluter responsible for the financial and environmental liabilities at the site; and incentivize concurrent development of the site and continue economic development efforts. We are hopeful that EPA and DEQ will help us achieve these goals.’

The Clark Fork River will return to moderate flood stage this weekend and will remain there for the next few weeks, due to the record snow pack in area mountains.