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DEQ: Cleanup of CFAC potroom a ‘milestone’

September 22, 2018

One small piece of what promises to be a prolonged and extensive cleanup of contamination at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site has been resolved, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ described the completion of this portion of the cleanup as a milestone.

The agency announced Friday that an agreement signed in 2015 with the aluminum company and its remediation contractor, Calbag, to address hazardous wastes in the potroom building has been satisfied.

In aluminum smelting, pots are used to reduce alumina as part of the smelting process.

DEQ said the 2015 agreement covered the removal and disposal of 451 potliners and other regulated hazardous wastes.

About 415,881,518 pounds of waste were removed, including solid waste, asbestos and hazardous waste, DEQ reported Friday.

“We are happy to have reached this milestone in the cleanup of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co.,” said Jenny Chambers, DEQ’s waste management and remediation administrator, in a news release.

“While there is still work to do, DEQ is committed to making sure all aspects of the cleanup are done right to protect human health and the environment,” she said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is the lead agency for environmental assessment and cleanup of the facility.

EPA added the site two years ago to its National Priorities List. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up contamination at sites that pose a risk to human health and the environment.

The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site is in a cleanup phase known as “remedial investigation and feasibility study.” The remedial investigation collects data to characterize the site, its contaminants and risks to human health. It also evaluates potential treatment options. The feasibility study evaluates alternative cleanup actions.

The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company Superfund site covers about 960 acres north of the Flathead River. The EPA has said that groundwater and surface water at the site contain contaminants that include cyanide, fluoride and various metals.

The aluminum plant operated between 1955 and 2009.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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