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M2Green wants state-managed cleanup program at old Smurfit site

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: May 23 2013 07:44:44 PM MDT
Updated On: May 23 2013 10:13:32 PM MDT

The Illinois based company does not want EPA to declare the Frenchtown former mill land a Superfund site.

EPA proposed Tuesday that it be listed.

FRENCHTOWN, Mont. -

On Tuesday, the EPA proposed the old Smurfit mill near Frenchtown be listed as a Superfund site. Now, the owner is striking back.

M2Green wants a state-managed cleanup program, and when NBC Montana asked what being a Superfund site would do to redevelopment, the company told us "several opportunities" have stopped moving forward due to the uncertainty of such a designation.

M2Green said it can handle the cleanup, and proved that in other areas.

Much of the mill has been scrapped, and no new manufacturing tenants have moved on board.

The company said infrastructure and access to the old site are ideal for new manufacturing. It has released a plan to redevelop the former mill ground as an industrial site with mixed uses. But since Smurfit workers left, nobody except mill cleanup crews have been evident.

Nichol Scribner is a pharmacy technician in Frenchtown. She's "hesitant" to believe the site will see new jobs anytime soon.

"The longer it takes, the less likely I feel that something is going to go in there." said Scribner.

Some Frenchtown-area residents aren't optimistic at all. They said in two years, there hasn't been the movement many expected.

Many millworkers have moved away.

Some residents are more patient than others. Some said they want to believe there will be new life on site.

The loss of 400-plus jobs hit the area's economy hard, and there doesn't appear to be a lot of relief anytime soon.

Jerome Longpre said he thinks EPA should get involved.

"I'm sure they can redevelop it, but I don't know if they can clean up the pollution at the same time," he said, "Leave that to the government, then redevelop the land."

But Tom Zeigler doesn't think so. This area resident said it seems M2Green is doing a "pretty good job."

"If the federal government gets involved," said Zeigler, "it will go on and on for years and years."

M2Green owns an old Smurfit plant in New Brunswick, and is under fire from Canadian officials for not getting the cleanup going faster.

NBC Montana asked about that. It said it is negotiating with a buyer who will do the work, as part of its plan to build a manufacturing plant.