Downtown Libby, MT.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it is giving final approval to the Libby Superfund asbestos cleanup program. Work to clean up the town started about 15 years ago.

This week hundreds of people in Butte got a long-awaited chance to talk Superfund issues with the EPA and state and local leaders. The event was co-sponsored by the Montana Standard newspaper. Susan Dunlap is the Standard’s natural resource reporter. She was at the meeting and joins us now.

The Parrot Smelter operated between 1891 and 1899

The State of Montana says the best way to clean up toxic waste rock at the former Parrot copper smelter site in Butte is to dump it into the Berkeley pit. The buried tailings threaten to contaminate Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River.

Uptown Butte, looking north, at the intersection of Main Street and Park Street in April, 2006.

The board that’s in charge of $14 million for community redevelopment related to the Butte Superfund settlement said this week that it only intends to use interest that money is earning to fund local grant requests. Reporter Susan Dunlap has been following the board for the Montana Standard, and joined us earlier to explain what it’s doing.

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company
Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) reached a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday to begin investigating cleanup options for the former aluminum smelter. CFAC officials hope their work will be good enough to avoid a Superfund listing.

Courtesy Photo

The EPA’s report concluded that it’s possible to live and work in Libby and Troy without concern of suffering from the respiratory diseases associated with asbestos. It confirms findings released in a preliminary report eleven months ago.

Brett McCully, Director of Operations for Lincoln County Port Authority

Libby and Troy are beginning a campaign to re-brand themselves as places to live, visit and invest in – trying to shake off more than a decade-old economic shadow.

"We’re building on some past efforts from local organizations," Tina Oliphant of Libby & Troy 2020 Initiative said. 

For 75 years, arsenic-laced waste from some of the world’s largest copper-mining operations accumulated behind Milltown Dam, located a few miles east of Missoula. Then in 1983, the dam, along with 120 miles of the Clark Fork River, was designated as a Superfund site. The 30-year saga of dam removal and clean-up is the focus of a book by David Brooks:  Restoring the Shining Waters: Superfund Success at Milltown, Montana.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement today about the clean-up of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant.
Corin Cates-Carney

The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company, or CFAC, closed its doors permanently this spring after the plant hadn’t fully operated since 2009.

Now, the company, private contractors, the Environmental Protection Agency and members of the community are talking about how to begin to cleaning up the old aluminum plant, where cyanide, fluoride and other metals have been detected in the soil.

Columbia Falls Aluminum Company
Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

An open house on the process of cleaning up the shutdown Columbia Falls Aluminum plant happens Thursday evening.

The Columba Falls Aluminum Company, or CFAC, permanently closed this spring after the plant hadn’t fully operated since 2009. CFAC is in talks with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how to begin cleanup.