columbia falls

Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

The Environmental Protection Agency now formally proposes adding the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company to the National Superfund List.

That makes the former smelter eligible for additional study and cleanup resources.

Cyanide, fluoride and various metals have been detected in soils, surface ponds and groundwater at the now-closed Columbia Falls smelter. That's why city manager, Susan Nicosia, supports the EPA's proposal to add the site to its priorities list.

Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

Columbia Falls may know by autumn whether the now-closed aluminum smelter there will become a Superfund site.

Last Tuesday the owners of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced the smelter is permanently closing.

The next day the Environmental Protection Agency notified Governor Steve Bullock it proposes to add the plant to its priority list of industrial sites that should be cleaned.

Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

To many Columbia Falls residents the full closure of the local aluminum smelter was more a matter of when than if.

That question was answered with certainty this week when Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced that it's permanently shuttering the plant.

Local real estate agent Bill Dakin say this development was a long time coming.

"This announcement, finally, an honest announcement that this plant will never refine aluminum again, is kind of a new day here."

Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced Tuesday it’s permanently closing its doors. The plant stopped production in 2009 during the height of the recession. The company was once a major employer in the Flathead Valley.

A skeleton crew has maintained Columbia Falls Aluminum Company for over 5 years as officials waited for the right time to reopen.

Word came this week that time will never come.

Company spokesman Haley Beaudry says several factors sealed the plant's fate including increased global competition and continued depressed aluminum prices.

Courtesy EPA

Efforts to clean up the shuttered Columbia Falls Aluminum Company smelter have hit a snag.

State and federal officials will brief the residents in Columbia Falls Thursday.

Montana’s Department of Environmental quality wanted to speed up the process that could qualify the closed smelter for federal “Superfund” cleanup money.

Before state inspectors could assess the problem in detail, the company would have to sign a consent decree, according to DEQ attorney William Kirley.

Katrin Frye

Plum Creek Timber Company officials say they hope to return the company's fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls to full production this week, about a month after an explosion and fire shut it down.

Tom Ray is a Plum Creek vice president. Ray says the plant started its No. 2 production line a week ago. The line, built in 2001, manufactures fiberboard that's one-tenth of an inch thick.

Crews were still working to return the No. 1 line to full production. It produces fiberboard up to 1-and-a-quarter inches thick:

Katrin Frye

A Habitat for Humanity home in Columbia Falls took great strides toward completion over the past two months with the help of young volunteers. A National Service group with volunteers aged 18 to 24 came on the scene two months ago, and this month a steady stream of college students are spending spring break in hard hats and tool bags building a home for strangers.

For three weeks in March Habitat for Humanity of the Flathead hosts three different college groups. The week of the 17th it was a group of spring breakers from the University of Wisconsin – Stout.