Coalition Urges Smurfit-Stone Superfund Designation - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Coalition Urges Smurfit-Stone Superfund Designation

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FRENCHTOWN -

A Missoula non-profit is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to designate the former Smurfit-Stone mill as a federal superfund cleanup site.

The EPA proposed making the mill a superfund site back in May, and now, the Clark Fork Coalition is urging the public to send comments in support of the site's designation.

Clark Fork Coalition scientists said the EPA has already done a preliminary assessment, that revealed toxic compounds called dioxins and furans exist at the site.

Coalition members said it's important to clean up the site before the contamination spreads. However, officials with the site's owner -- M2Green -- say a superfund designation could hinder their plans for redevelopment.

Clark Fork Coalition Science Director Christine Brick said the dioxins and furans were found in Smurfit-Stone sludge and wastewater ponds, ground water, and in the river's sediments.

"They have a pathway, going from the disposal area, into groundwater and to the river, and so we think that needs further investigation and most likely cleanup," Brick said.

Brick says the amount of toxins are within the "parts per trillion," meaning a very small amount, but the compounds can still affect human immune and reproductive systems and even cause cancer.

Clark Fork Coalition scientists said the waste water ponds lie directly within the Clark Fork River's flood plain, this means one big flood could wash dioxins downstream, affecting Frenchtown residents who live along the river.

Brick said if the paper mill site, which was shut down in 2010, is designated a superfund site, it would ensure the responsible parties paid for the cleanup. She says those companies include International Paper and RockTenn.

"And they can figure out not only what's there, but how it's moving and what the pathways are, in other words, is it a problem for people, is it a problem for people," Brick said.

The site's current owner -- M2Green plans to transform the site into the "Frenchtown Technology and Industrial Center," which would include open space and even residential areas, even if the location is designated a superfund site.

Brick said M2Green would prefer to cleanup the site themselves, but coalition members are concerned the cleanup would be too costly without federal oversight.

"There are some parts of the site that in fact may be clean and I think if those sites are clean -- I think they need to be sampled first to make sure -- but, if they are clean, then absolutely, those sites could be redeveloped, and we'd be happy to see redevelopment out there," Brick said.

Public comments on the Smurfit-Stone site's designation as a superfund site are due by the end of July.

If you would like to learn more information about the EPA's superfund site process, or to submit your own comments, click here.

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