February 19, 2007

Milltown work

Details of the infrastructure needed to carry out the Milltown cleanup are available in the recently released Final Design Report (FDR) for site infrastructure. The FDR includes the final designs for site layout and access improvements, flood control berm and temporary bypass inlet and outlet structures, landfill material removal, growth media salvage and construction of the Milltown rail spur and loading pad. Text of the report (1.3 MB) is available here (PDF).

The entire report, with appendices, is available at Envirocon’s FTP site. Details after the jump.

Click on this link and an ftp session should open in your internet browser.

1. You should see the folder “Stage 1B Element 1 FDR”. Open this folder and the various subfolders containing the PDF files making up the report will appear. Because of their large file size, FDR appendices are provided as separate PDF files to reduce download time for those only interested in certain portions of the report.
2. Drag and drop the desired files from the ftp window to your desktop (or other directory where you would like the files to reside) and allow them to download to your computer.
3. Do not attempt to open the files directly from the ftp window.

If you have any problems downloading this file call Zac Collins in EMC2’s Bozeman office at 406-522-0251 extension 113 for technical support.

February 19, 2007

The Montana Department of Transportation has announced its intention to replace, rather than upgrade, the Highway 200 bridge in Milltown over the Blackfoot River. The state has said it will accept the EPA’s offer of $3.8 million to help replace the bridge. “We certainly think the public and taxpayers will be better served spending that amount of money on a new bridge rather than shoring up an old bridge,” said MDT Director Jim Lynch in a Missoulian interview.

All five bridges over the Blackfoot River need to be upgraded or replaced before the Milltown Dam can be removed. Upgrading the existing 58-year-old Highway 200 bridge could have cost roughly $3 million. Next big bridge issues are what do about traffic during the bridge construction and what will happen to Missoula County’s pedestrian bridge. A community meeting is planned to discuss bridges issues in late February or early March.

February 19, 2007

The EPA’s weekly Milltown update (Feb. 13) finds things on track on with the cleanup. Highlights from the last week include:

* Installation of the silt fencing along the Clark Fork River was completed last week. Silt fencing will help keep soils from eroding into the river from storm water run-off.
* Clark Fork River flood berm construction began last week. Upon its comple- tion, construction of the flood berm on the Blackfoot River will begin. All flood berms will be finished by April 2007—before high flow.
* Work will continue on construction of on-site haul road at the base of I-90.
* Soils gradation work will also continue. This work is needed to ensure that riprap and soils used on site are appropriate for construction of the by-pass channel berms, haul roads, flood berms, etc.

Read more about it here (PDF).

February 19, 2007

The Environmental Protection Agency recently opened a Community Information Office in Milltown. It is located behind the Milltown Market at 315 Anaconda Street. EPA staff will be on hand to meet with the public every Tuesday from noon until 3:30 pm. The phone number is 258-5155.

February 13, 2007

Peter Nielsen of the Missoula County Health Dept. recently put out a Milltown update, complete with photos. Read on….

Milltown Reservoir is currently drawn down about 11 feet from full pool.

Envirocon has completed its pilot bypass channel test pit excavation and dewatering test. The schedule calls for completion of the bypass channel by this time next year. About 42,000 yards of contaminated sediment have been excavated from the test pit and stockpiled on site. Envirocon and Montana Rail Link plan to build a rail spur onto the site this summer, and ship the removed material to the former tailings ponds owned by BP/Arco near the former Anaconda Smelter beginning in September.

February confluence

The photo above shows the view of the confluence and construction site from the bluff above the dam on the south side of the river. The Blackfoot River is covered with ice on the left, and the Clark Fork is on the right.

Construction site

The photo above shows a closer view of Envirocon’s construction site. The blackish material stacked in the center of the photo is the sediment removed from the test pit. A flood control berm has been constructed around these sediments to protect against erosion. A portion of the test pit is located at the far left of the photo. Heavy equipment is installing silt fence along the Clark Fork channel at the right side of the photo. A more permanent flood berm will be built along the channel of both rivers prior to spring runoff.


The three photos above show the bypass channel test pit. Envirocon has excavated down through about 20 feet of contaminated sediments, into the native river gravels. The Interstate highway is in the background. A section of the bypass channel will later be built in this location. The bypass channel will be as wide as this test pit, and sized to handle the 100-year flood when the dam is removed.


This photo, courtesy the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, shows one of many large tree stumps found at the bottom of the excavation. These trees were cut before the reservoir was filled in 1908, and have been preserved under the reservoir sediments since the 1908 flood. A bit of history uncovered….

Test Pit Discharge

This photo shows where water is discharged from the test pit excavation. Envirocon used a network of wells and wick drains to remove water from the saturated sediments in the test pit. This allowed the sediments to be excavated and stacked in the stockplies. Note the rusty color of the ice, from the high levels of iron in the water. The discharge and the river downstream are closely monitored to ensure that arsenic and other metal concentrations remain below water quality standards. The Milltown Dam is in the background

Upcoming activities: Flood berm construction will be completed along both the Blackfoot and Clark Fork by April 1. The Interstate highway embankment stabilization along the Blackfoot River will resume again in March or April. The Montana Department of Transportation is considering full replacement of the Highway 200 bridge, which EPA had planned to stabilize later this year. MDT’s decision is expected soon. If the bridge is replaed, construction could take about 10 months to complete. A number of options for traffic detour are being considered, which are of significant concern for the local community. Missoula County’s plans to remove and replace the pedestrian bridge are on hold until MDT makes its decision, since the new bridge may include a pedestrian lane and the State funding for the County project is temporarliy in limbo.

Missoula County will hold an open house regarding the design of a new pedestrian walkway from the Bonner School to the Piltzville neighborhood, from 4:00-7:30 p.m. on February 15 at the Bonner School. This trail has been funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide a safe pedestrian route when the rail spur is built behind the school later this year.

The project remains on schedule, but with so many different aspects of the project to coordinate, schedules are constantly subject to change. The next reservoir drawdown, and additional 6-7 feet, is scheduled for fall, 2007. If everything goes as planned, the Milltown Dam spillway would be removed in early 2008, and the reservoir will be drawn down to its final elevation, about 29 feet below full pool elevation at the dam.

February 13, 2007

A community meeting in Opportunity last week prompted front page coverage by the Montana Standard on local efforts concerning threats to groundwater and air quality posed by the Anaconda Superfund site. The proposed remediation work at the Anaconda site is under review and possible revision, and the public is encouraged to chime in.

“We’re talking about monitoring the groundwater and ensuring it meets standards,” said technical advisor Jim Kuipers in the Standard interview. “We’re talking about the final cleanup that’s going to be done on yards and attics … (and) the effect that will have on development and redevelopment. We’re talking everything nuts-and-bolts (from) water, land, soil remediation to what should be the next store built in town.”

Not in my back yard
By Erin Nicholes, of The Montana Standard - 02/11/2007

ANACONDA — When Maureen Robinson moved to Opportunity a decade ago, Superfund was just part of the community’s vernacular.

“We’ve been hearing it so long; it was a word that didn’t have any meaning or impact,” she said.

Years later, a decision to move Milltown Dam sediment to Opportunity, a rural community just east of Anaconda, abruptly redefined Superfund.

“I realized that 6 to 12 million cubic yards of mining toxic waste was coming to our back yard from Milltown, and that that decision had been made without asking me,” Robinson said.

[CFRTAC note: less than three million cubic yards will be shipped from the Milltown site.]

Now citizens and officials are trying to prevent those surprises by rallying people for the Superfund game before the final buzzer.

“The final decisions for the next 30 years are being decided over the next six months,” said Jim Kuipers, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County’s Superfund technical adviser. “There hasn’t been enough input in this county as to the final remedies.” Big decisions Simply put, residents have one last chance to shape decisions that will frame Anaconda’s future health, recreation and economy, Kuipers said.

“This really is the ninth inning,” he said. “The ball game is going to have been played.” In Superfund lingo, an upcoming agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and British Petroleum- Arco — a final consent decree to say exactly how environmental issues must be addressed — is spurring the push for public involvement. Also, the EPA is considering modifications to Records of Decision issued in the 1990s.

“We’re talking about monitoring the groundwater and ensuring it meets standards,” Kuipers said. “We’re talking about the final cleanup that’s going to be done on yards and attics … (and) the effect that will have on development and redevelopment. We’re talking everything nuts-and-bolts (from) water, land, soil remediation to what should be the next store built in town.” But getting average citizens enthused about those topics isn’t simple; the mere mention of the 300-square- mile, 20-year-old site can be a mental turnoff.

“We have to mobilize to get the public involved,” said county Chief Executive Rebecca Guay.

How it applies To that end, upcoming meetings are intended to explain how Superfund applies to people’s lives, and gather input for the EPA to consider in the consent decree.

“The science and technical aspects of Superfund are very hard to understand,” Kuipers said. “We’re making a lot of efforts to simplify that …There are really three things that largely create an interest for the public and a need for the public to become involved.” They are, generally, water quality, redevelopment and contaminated soils.

“These decisions are going to affect people’s lives down the road,” said Robin Saha, a University of Montana environmental studies professor who helped mobilize Opportunity. “There’s nothing more important than the water we drink and the air we breathe.” So far, the public is taking the opportunity to speak up.

At a packed ground and surface water meeting last month, Opportunity residents demanded more aggressive well testing and monitoring, and ultimately a water and sewer system to ensure arsenic stays out of their drinking water.

A similar meeting on redevelopment issues is upcoming. Specifically of concern is the area just east of Anaconda, which is contaminated but critical for economic development, Guay said, pointing to the example of Bi-Mart dropping plans for a store there after realizing contamination levels a few years ago.

“Businesses don’t need to take on that liability,” she said.

The county wants to hear residents’ expectations for the property. To that end, the county is holding an additional series of meetings as part of a growth policy revision.

Also, Anaconda Regional Water, Waste and Soils, which includes the Opportunity Ponds and arsenic contamination throughout the site, will be the focus of a meeting.

One voice For some, Superfund apathy is rooted in doubts that public comments really matter.

“Yes, they do,” said Charlie Coleman, the EPA’s site supervisor.

The agency has given the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in technical assistance grants — some of which it used to hire Kuipers — to give it a voice in the final remedies.

“What Kuipers and the county are doing is extending that voice to the public,” Coleman said.

The Opportunity Citizens Protection Association, formed with help from Saha after the Milltown decision, is an example of how grassroots efforts can drive change.

For example, “ARCO has spent a large amount of money to contain dust,” association member Serge Meyers said. “It’s going to end up being a lot safer environment for the young people of the area.” The association has secured new well tests, air monitoring and is working on a park at Beaverdam School.

“If you wonder why this is finally all coming together, it’s the hard- working people of this community who didn’t give up,” county resident Kathy Hadley said at a public meeting in Opportunity last week.

Other citizens should follow suit, Kuipers said.

“If we don’t take this opportunity, (the county) is largely going to be told what’s going to happen with regard to Superfund,” he said.

Dates and times of future public meetings will be announced.

Erin Nicholes may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

February 13, 2007

The Montana Standard reports that legal negotiations between the state and ARCO over remaining unsettled Natural Resource Damage claims may be a step closer to resolution.

Mining lawsuit: State, Arco reach deal
By Justin Post of The Montana Standard - 02/12/2007

The state of Montana is ready to settle a nearly 25-year lawsuit against Atlantic Richfield Co. over environmental damage caused by mining and smelting in Butte and Anaconda.

The Montana Department of Justice and the Atlantic Richfield Co. have reached a confidential agreement to settle the final three outstanding natural resource damage claims, according to court documents filed recently in U.S. District Court in Helena.

Those remaining claims involve natural resource damage along the Clark Fork River from the Warm Springs ponds to Milltown, the Anaconda Uplands area, and Area One, a contaminated groundwater aquifer in Butte.

Before this settlement becomes final and public, however, the state, Atlantic Richfield and the Environmental Protection Agency must also reach agreement on the Superfund cleanup plan for the Clark Fork River site. It is anticipated that this upcoming settlement will include money for Superfund remediation along the Clark Fork River, just as the 1998 settlement earmarked money for Superfund cleanup work on Silver Bow Creek.

John Wardell, director of EPA’s Montana office, said the EPA is asking the state to take the lead role in implementing the Superfund remedy and handling restoration work along the Clark Fork.

“It makes no sense to have two government agencies trying to coordinate the activity,” he said.

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath has asked U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon to extend the deadline for negotiations until June 30 as talks continue.

Because of a confidentiality order imposed on the proceedings, details are unavailable as to why state and federal officials have been unable to finalize negotiations.

“I’m frustrated we have not reached a resolution with the EPA,” McGrath said.

He declined further comment.

In December 1983, the state sued Atlantic Richfield to recover damages for injured natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin caused by the mining activities of Atlantic Richfield and its predecessors dating back to the 1870s.

The alleged injuries were to groundwater, air, soils, vegetation, wildlife, fish and surface water. The state sought $765 million for past and future loss of resources and for restoring the injured areas.

In 1998, the parties reached a settlement totaling roughly $215 million for all but these three remaining restoration damage claims.

It’s still unknown how much Atlantic Richfield has agreed to pay to settle these remaining claims. But once the settlement is reached, the state could decide to spend a portion of the money to remove the highly contaminated Parrot tailings that are buried under and around the county shop complex east of the Civic Center.

In the meantime, EPA has ordered extensive monitoring to prevent more groundwater from being contaminated.

— Reporter Justin Post may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by telephone, 496-5572.

February 13, 2007

The EPA has begun producing two-page weekly updates on the work being carried out at the Milltown Reservoir Sediments Superfund site. Check out updates from January 24 , January 30, and February 6 (PDFs).

February 13, 2007

Notes from January’s Milltown Redevelopment Working Group meeting are available here (PDF). Highlights include a discussion with members of the new Bonner Community Council, the selection of committee chairs and and the identification of committee priorities for 2007. The next Working Group meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lutheran Church in Bonner.

February 13, 2007

CFRTAC technical advisor Chris Brick recently reviewed water quality monitoring data for December 2006 and January 2007 and found that in both months water quality was good, with low to moderate turbidity and low dissolved metals. For details, see December’s (PDF) and January’s (PDF) summaries.

February 13, 2007

In a January Montana Public Radio commentary, CFRTAC friend and volunteer Pat Munday asks what will become of Warm Springs Ponds at the head of the Clark Fork River. The ponds are used to treat the toxic flows of Silver Bow Creek and have been effective in removing copper but remain a source of arsenic in the Clark Fork River. And then there’s the “postmodern trout fishery: supported by stocking exotic fish, chemical treatment, and a network of pumps, piping, water testing, maintenance, and humans that try to make it function properly.” The ponds, he reminds listeners, “are a huge waste repository—and, like Butte, a Superfund site to be maintained in perpetuity.”

Read the January Montana Public Radio comentary here (PDF) or check out a longer version on his Ecorover blog.

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