FRENCHTOWN – Government testers say they’re finding evidence of arsenic, manganese and other contaminants in the heart of the old Smurfit Stone mill site.
But they say it’s going to require more sampling this year to fill in “data gaps” before a cleanup plan is finalized.
This week representatives of the US Environmental Protection Agency and Montana Department of Environmental Quality shared results of testing last summer and fall to determine the scope of contamination at the old mill site east of Frenchtown.
While the experts told Frenchtown’s Community Action Group there’s a still a need for more data, the latest sampling is showing evidence that contamination left from various mill operations is likely impacting groundwater. And there’s some belief the shallow aquifer across the property could be impacting the Clark Fork River.
However, the good news is, many of the samples aren’t showing contamination above the levels of concern set by EPA, although some exceed lower levels used by the state.
Residents were told this is a difficult site to evaluate.
“There isn’t just one source area at this site. You know, it’s not like a gas station where you have a tank leak and you see really high concentrations next to the tank and the concentrations decrease as you go downgradient,” explained DEQ hydrologist Sara Edinberg.
“It’s not like that at this site. You’ll have two wells next to each other and one will have like a crazy high concentration of manganese and one will be kind of a lower concentration of manganese. So you can’t really contour these concentrations,” she added.
The agencies say they’re planning some additional testing, a modeling of how groundwater is moving across the site, with hopes of developing a final cleanup plan this year.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News