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EPA and Montana DEQ announce new proposed cleanup plan for the Milltown Reservoir Sediments Superfund Site in Montana

Release Date: 5/17/2004
Contact Information:
Helena-- Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released a Revised Proposed Plan for the Milltown Reservoir Sediments Operable Unit of the Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site. The cleanup plan proposes removing the most highly contaminated sediments behind the 100-year old Milltown Dam and removing the Milltown Dam.

The Revised Proposed Plan is different in some key ways from the original Proposed Plan issued by EPA and DEQ in April of last year. EPA and DEQ made changes and developed the Revised Proposed Plan in response to comments received on the original proposed plan. During the 90-day public comment period in 2003, EPA received some 4,000 comments.

The primary comment from the public was to change the repository location to Opportunity Ponds, a currently managed Superfund waste repository. The Potentially Responsible Party for the cleanup and owner of the Opportunity Ponds, the Atlantic Richfield Company, also suggested this change in its comments to EPA. Additionally, the Atlantic Richfield Company proposed changing from dredging to dry excavation and then hauling the excavated sediments to Opportunity Ponds waste repository by rail (instead of a slurry line to the downstream repository). The Atlantic Richfield Company owns the Opportunity Ponds, and believes the excavated waste from the Milltown Reservoir can be integrated into the closure and capping of the repository.

EPA and DEQ seriously considered these comments and now, after 9 months of review, modeling, peer review, analysis, and substantial additions for increased sediment control, EPA and DEQ have concluded that these changes improve the overall project and would result in a faster, more efficient cleanup. Importantly, this approach would reduce the cleanup time by 2 years and not create a waste repository on uncontaminated land. The current cleanup plan is estimated to cost $106 million and take 6 years (2004-2009) to complete.

If implemented, this cleanup plan will provide these benefits at the Milltown Superfund Site:

    • Permanent, long-term protection of public health and the environment
    • Recovery of the Milltown drinking water aquifer
    • Substantial elimination of contaminant release from ice-scouring and catastrophic events
    • Use of existing waste management areas for waste disposal
    • Other environmental benefits of this cleanup plan are:
        • Return of two major waterways - the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers - to a free-flowing state
        • Unrestricted fish passage
        • Substantial improvement in the native and recreational fisheries, especially for trout
        • Laying the groundwork for possible future restoration and redevelopment of the area

      The Record of Decision (ROD) for the Milltown Reservoir is expected this fall and the necessary planning, design, and site preparation would begin immediately thereafter. Infrastructure construction would occur in 2005 with dam removal planned for 2006. Removal of the 2.6 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment in the Reservoir would occur in 2006 and 2007. Channel stabilization and revegetation (restoration) activities would occur 2007-2008. A community-based Superfund redevelopment group is currently looking at options for future land use, building on the remediation and restoration efforts.

      This cleanup plan is only a proposed plan. An essential part of the Superfund decision-making process is learning what the public thinks about the Proposed Plan. The public comment period runs from May 19 to June 21, 2004. Whether one agrees or disagrees and regardless of whether or not one has submitted comments before, EPA and DEQ want to hear what the public thinks about this Revised Proposed Plan. This is the biggest decision point in the Superfund cleanup process and the public is encouraged to comment.

      Comments can be made in any of the following ways:

      Send written comments to:
      Russ Forba - Milltown Comments EPA
      Region 8, Montana Office
      10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
      Helena, Montana 59626

      Email comments to:

      Attend either of two public meetings and voice your opinion "for the record":

      Wednesday, June 9, 2004

      Bonner School Gym
      9045 Highway 200
      Bonner, Montana

      Open House 6:00-7:00 pm
      Public Meeting 7:00-10:00 pm

      Thursday, June 10, 2004

      Opportunity Community Center
      Hauser and Stewart (kitty corner from Solan's grocery)
      Opportunity, Montana
      Open House 6:00-7:00 pm
      Public Meeting 7:00-10:00 pm

        A copy of the Revised Proposed Plan for the Milltown Reservoir Sediments Superfund Site is available on EPA's Milltown web page:

        The public can also request a copy on CD-Rom by calling Carol or Jo at EPA at 1-866-457-2690.

        Copies are also available for review at the Bonner School (Bonner), Missoula Public Library (Missoula), the Hearst Free Library (Anaconda), the Anaconda Local Development Office (Anaconda), and the EPA Records Center (EPA Office in Helena).