July 17, 2013 - Montana Governor Steve Bullock visited the Clark Fork River at Warm Springs today to view cleanup activities underway by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Bullock stated, “This cleanup is important to the agricultural heritage of this area.” He also talked about the importance it will play in stimulating the economy and improving the environment. Bullock put the amount of contamination that will be removed into perspective, “If you stacked the waste onto a 100-yard football field it would be 50-feet high.”
Bullock was joined in opening remarks by Traci Stone-Manning, DEQ Director, and Brian Bartkowiak, DEQ Project Manager.
Bartkowiak led the tour as participants watched equipment repair a stream-bank with fresh clean soil. He gave a brief history of the Superfund site and answered questions from the group that included local government leaders, landowners, business owners and conservation group leaders.
DEQ oversees a project that will remove historic mining waste from mining operations in Butte that have been on the banks of the Clark Fork for over one hundred years. Goals for the river cleanup include restoring river banks, improving water quality and fish populations, and reconnecting the river to the floodplain with the hope of improving riparian habitat.
The cleanup began earlier this year on what has been dubbed “Phase 1” by the DEQ. Phase 1sits at the headwaters of the Clark Fork and is owned by the state. It will serve as a model for the cleanup as the project moves downstream onto private lands. There are 23 phases on the 43 river miles from Warm Springs to Garrison. The work is scheduled to continue for the next 10 – 15 years.
Funding for the cleanup came from a settlement with BP-Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) following negotiations that took many decades. The state received $123 million from ARCO for remediation and restoration of the river.
Helena Sand and Gravel was awarded the contract for the Phase 1 work and is ahead of schedule.
For further information please contact Darryl Barton, Coordinator, Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee (CFRTAC) (406) 846-1628.