he Montana Departments of Environmental Quality and Justice and Stimson Lumber Company have finalized an order requiring removal of a contaminated cooling pond and berm encroaching into the Blackfoot River at the company's former lumber mill in Bonner. This Administrative Order on Consent was signed by all parties on Tuesday, April 20, which clears the way for the company to begin design this spring, do cleanup in the fall and settle a state lawsuit.
"It is fitting that this action coincides with Earth Day and sheds light on the pollution that needs to be cleaned up along the Blackfoot River," said Governor Brian Schweitzer. "In addition to protecting the river, the cleanup will create good paying jobs and is a part of Montana's restoration economy."
In February, the state and Stimson reached preliminary agreement on the proposed order and requested public comment. This week, the DEQ and DOJ, in consultation with the EPA, finalized the order after considering comments received.
"This week marks the 40th Anniversary of the original Earth Day, and this action demonstrates how far we've come to improve and protect Montana's environment," said DEQ Director Richard Opper. "The best way to honor Earth Day is by correcting environmental mistakes of the past, as we are doing at the mill, and preventing new environmental problems for future generations."
In 2006, the DEQ discovered polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and petroleum contamination in the cooling pond and berm.
In 2008, the DOJ filed a complaint against Stimson in Montana District Court seeking an injunction requiring removal of the berm.
Plans for cleanup include excavation and removal of 84,790 cubic yards of contaminated materials (about 8,500 dump trucks full) and disposal in off-site facilities at an estimated cost to Stimson of over $6 million. Once work is completed, the DOJ will dismiss its complaint against the company.
"I teach my kids that if you make a mess, it's your job to clean it up. That's the way it ought to work, so I'm glad to see Stimson committing to cleaning up contamination on the Blackfoot River," said Attorney General Steve Bullock. "We've reached a good resolution to this lawsuit - one that will benefit Montana now and in the future."