October 29, 2007

Derailment
Derailment

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, two Montana Rail Link locomotives and a railcar used to haul Milltown sediments to the BP-ARCO repository derailed behind the Bonner School. The Missoulian reports the engines are back on track with no disruption to the hauling schedule. MRL officials are investigating and suggested the derailment was track-related. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Hall.)

October 22, 2007

Gateway View
Gateway View

Design summaries for options at a possible Milltown park are available online. The summaries, the product of a September design workshop, will be presented at public meetings in Bonner at St. Ann’s Church from 7-9 p.m. on Oct. 25, and in Missoula at the Public Library (7-9 p.m.) on Oct. 29.

During the workshop, three design teams looked different areas of the Milltown Superfund site. Check out design possibilities for the confluence area (PDF), the reservoir area (PDF), and Milltown gateway (PDF).

October 17, 2007

The Montana Standard reports that trout are turning up in the restored sections of Silver Bow Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Clark Fork River. The Dept. of Environmental Quality, the agency leading the cleanup, recently announced that several brook trout, and even a handful of cutthroats, have been found in fish surveys this year along Silver Bow Creek, where a remediation and restoration effort has been underway since 1999.

Silverbow Creek
Silver Bow Creek

“This data shows that progress is being made to a once dead system,” said Gregory Mullen of the Natural Resource Damage Program. “The fish and wildlife habitat developing in and along the creek is very impressive and is improving every year.” For more information, see the DEQ’s news release.

October 16, 2007

Confluence Rendering
Confluence rendering

Draft plans and site renderings from the recent two-day Milltown park design workshop will be on display at public meetings on October 25, from 7-9 p.m. at St. Ann Catholic Church in Bonner, and October 29 from 7-9 p.m. at the Missoula Public Library.

The meetings, sponsored by the Milltown Superfund Redevelopment Working Group, are aimed at gathering public comment to help narrow the options and develop a final draft site plan for the confluence and adjacent areas to be carried out once the Superfund cleanup is complete.

For more on the park planning effort, the Milltown Redevelopment section of this website.

October 16, 2007

The Missoulian and Montana Standard have featured stories on the shipment of Milltown’s sediments to the BP-ARCO repository near Opportunity. Check out the Standard’s article and photo gallery, and also the Missoulian’s Sunday coverage.

October 12, 2007

Sediment Loader
Sediment Loader

With sediments rolling, the actual cleanup of the Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site is underway. Check out the EPA’s latest weekly update (PDF) for October 10 and Missoula County’s October report (PDF) for the latest.

October 12, 2007

Warm Springs Bypass
Warm Springs Ponds

Perhaps more questions than answers were raised about the future of the Warm Springs Ponds and Wildlife Management Area at a recent meeting in Anaconda.

Since the beginning of the year an informal group of citizens has been meeting to discuss what will ultimately happen at Warm Springs Ponds area, the facility used to treat the toxic flows of Silver Bow Creek at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River and a popular recreational area, known for birdwatching and a trophy trout fishery.

And while uncertainty surrounds the ultimate fate of the Warm Springs Ponds and Wildlife Management Area, which covers about 4100 acres at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River, it is clear there is considerable public interest in the site.
About 50 people attended the meeting, which featured presentations came from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Anaconda / Deer Lodge County and CFRTAC. The CFRTAC-sponsored public meeting on Sept. 26 explored the history, present operations and future of the Warm Springs Ponds and Wildlife Management Area.

One central question is whether the ponds will remain intact (wet closure) or be drained and filled in with dirt (dry closure). Although it’s early in the process, agencies disagree whether wet closure or dry closure is a better solution. Scott Brown, EPA project manager, stated that wet closure may also be a safer way to treat the sediments. In their current wet state the metals from mining waste like copper and zinc have settled to the bottom and are not active in the water. DEQ is currently cleaning up mining waste on Silver Bow Creek. Joel Chavez, the project’s supervisor, estimates that work will be complete in 2011. After the risk of mining contamination from Silver Bow Creek is reduced it is unknown how long the ponds will be needed to provide safety to the water entering the Clark Fork River. Estimates from DEQ range from 5-15 years while EPA thinks 30-40 years is more likely.

Decisions on future ownership and operation of the ponds are also uncertain. Currently MFWP manages the fish and wildlife resources of the area on a lease agreement with ARCO. The lease is in a state of limbo and details of the future are undecided.

At the meeting Dave Dziak, MFWP, spoke about the diversity of wildlife and fish of the area, users of the area, and the lease agreement. Dziak said that the area provides habitat for many kinds of ducks and geese, birds of prey and other birds as well as big game like deer, elk, moose, antelope and bear. The ponds also provide a home for many trout and other aquatic wildlife.

The ponds were built in 1911 to trap mining tailings before they entered the Clark Fork River. Lime is added at the inlet of the ponds to precipitate the metal out of the water and into the bottom sediments. Treatment for copper, zinc and other metal removal has been good., though the ponds release arsenic during part of the year.

With organizational support from CFRTAC, the group hopes to engage the communities in the Clark Fork River area in a planning process focused on fish and wildlife habitats and the outdoor recreational opportunities in the Warm Springs Ponds and Wildlife Management Area consistent with long-term public safety and final clean up decisions.
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For information, call CFRTAC field rep Darryl Barton 846-1929 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

October 11, 2007

A recent CFRTAC commentary aired on Montana Public Radio looked at media coverage of Clark Fork Superfund issues. CFRTAC coordinator Michael Kustudia explores the media’s penchant for conflict narratives.

Here’s an excerpt:

Us against them reportage is a media staple. One recent example came this summer from NPR’s coverage of the Clark Fork cleanup. The Seattle based correspondent seemed to arrive with a prefab storyline that pitted the Old West against new rich Californians. The story cast the Milltown cleanup as merely an example of environmental gentrification carried out for wealthy out of staters. And what’s worse, the piece suggested for a national audience that the Milltown project was somehow coming at the expense of cleanups upriver on the Clark Fork.

While it’s frustrating to hear such misrepresentations, it is useful because it raises a larger question. Is conflict the only frame for telling stories about the world we live in? There’s a danger that conflict narratives flatten out the life’s complexities, that they distort reality and that they even help perpetuate conflict itself. And sometimes it misses the real issue.

Read the rest here (PDF).

October 1, 2007

Railspur Construction
Rail Spur

Nearly a quarter century in the making, a major milestone at the Milltown Reservoir Sediments Superfund site will be reached this week with the first shipment of wastes to the BP-ARCO repository in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County.

The sediments have been excavated from the bypass channel, which is now nearly complete, and will be shipped starting Tuesday, October 2 via Montana Rail to the repository, a part of the Anaconda Smelter Superfund Site.

With the first shipment, Envirocon, the project contactor, will begin a seven days a week schedule, except for time off at holidays. At one train load per day, Envirocon estimates it will take 800 days to ship more than two million cubic yards of Milltown sediments to the repository.

BP_Arco Repository
BP-ARCO Repository

Under the current schedule, 45 railcars, each capable of carrying 70 cubic yards (or about 100 tons) will be loaded during the day and then shipped that night. The next day Envirocon will use excavators to unload the railcars and 40 ton haul trucks to transport the sediments to cells on the eastside of the repository. The sediments, high in contaminants like arsenic, copper and zinc but also full of organic matter, will be spread with bulldozers into a layer at least 22 inches thick over existing smelter wastes at the repository and then prepared for revegetation.

For more information, see the EPA news release (PDF) and weekly update (PDF). Also see the Associated Press coverage, the Missoulian, and New West.

The Milltown Reservoir at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers was designated a Superfund site in 1983 after local health officials found that the Milltown aquifer was contaminated with arsenic from mine wastes that had washed down the Clark Fork River in 1908.

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