EPA proposed action on CFAC cleanup postponed until next year

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Columbia Falls City manager Susan Nicosia recently met with Glencore officials to discuss the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. site and learned that the company was concerned about the city’s stance on the Superfund site clean-up. .

City leaders have raised concerns about the feasibility study / remedial investigation that approves containment of contaminants with a mud wall, as opposed to other cleanup methods, such as digging old landfills and ponds and removal of materials to an approved hazardous waste site in Oregon.

The feasibility study claims that the removal would not only be very expensive, but could potentially spread contaminated dirt throughout the city, as it would have to be trucked in and the trucks could leak.

The biggest problem with the site is the fluoride and cyanide in the groundwater near the old landfills and ponds that were just north of the plant.

“Our concern is water [is made] clean, ”Nicosia told company officials.

She noted that the next step in the process is action proposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the State Department of Environmental Quality.

Beth Archer, community engagement coordinator for the EPA, said they expect a proposed action to come up for public review this fall, but currently there is no has no contractor support to review the feasibility study. They hope to have an entrepreneur on board soon and release the proposed action by the first or second quarter of next year.

The proposed action is a document by which the EPA determines what is best to remedy the site. It will be open for public comment and she said the EPA plans to hold public meetings on the plan once it’s completed.

Added to this is a recent federal court ruling that found the former owner of the Atlantic Richfield Co. plant to be responsible for 35% of the cleanup costs.

Archer said the court ruling had no real impact on the cleanup plan, but would come into play when a consent decree is drafted. It is the legal document that defines who pays for what.

The cost of a molded wall is around $ 57 million, according to recent court documents. The highest cost of the cleanup, presumably transporting the waste, is over $ 167 million, the documents show.


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