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EPA proposes Superfund designation for old Smurfit mill site

By Kevin Bunch, KECI Reporter, kbunch@keci.com
Published On: May 21 2013 06:00:34 PM MDT
Updated On: May 21 2013 10:46:21 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The Environmental Protection Agency proposes placing a former Smurfit-Stone mill site in Frenchtown on its Superfund list.

"There were potentially serious levels of contamination in soil and ground water. And some of those contaminants have reached the Clark Fork River."

Peter Nielsen, environmental health supervisor for Missoula County, is referring to the findings of an assessment conducted by the EPA after the current owners bought the old Smurfit-Stone mill site in Frenchtown.

That assessment only covered a small portion of the land, but contamination was high enough to place the site on a federal national priorities list.

"What that means,” Nielsen says, “is that it deserves further investigation and potentially some serious cleanup."

But the company that owns the mill site isn’t interested.

"The owners of the mill site, M2 Green, have been working with EPA and DEQ and looked into various voluntary mechanisms in which the site could be potentially cleaned up," says Missoula County Commissioner Dale Bickell.

Alberton resident Derek Andrews worked on Superfund sites in Idaho. He agrees with M2 Green -- claiming Superfunds can be a hassle.

"I’d really like to see it cleaned up, but I'm deathly afraid of all the regulations and the red tape that a Superfund site would bring in. And make it harder for the little guy to get something done out there."

M2 Green owns other mill sites formerly owned by Smurfit-Stone. One in New Brunswick has been under fire by Canadian officials for not receiving proper cleanup, according to the New Brunswick department of environment.

"They have been declared delinquent in their responsibilities for cleanup by the provincial government," Nielsen says.

According to environmental health officials, the owners say no Superfund, but the county says yes. Now it’s the public's turn to comment. A public comment period starts Thursday.