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Milltown cleanup plan cleared to move forward

Release Date: 03/01/2006
Contact Information: John Wardell, (406) 457-5001, wardell.john@epa.gov

(Helena, Mont. - March 1, 2006) A consent decree agreement to clean up the Milltown Reservoir was signed Feb. 8 by Sam E. Haddon, United States District Court Judge for the District of Montana. This action makes the agreement a legally binding and enforceable document. This important step clears the way for removal of the Milltown Dam in 2008.

The Milltown Consent Decree was the subject of a public comment period by the U.S. Department of Justice after the parties to the agreement lodged it with the District Court in August 2005. Several comments were received. The Department of Justice and EPA, in cooperation with the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes responded to those comments and filed the responses with the federal district court. Judge Haddon has signed and entered the consent decree without changes. Thus, work under the decree can move forward.

The consent decree means that Atlantic Richfield Company and NorthWestern Corporation will complete the dam and sediment removal and stabilization cleanup of the Milltown Reservoir, which will include removal of millions of cubic yards of contaminated sediments and the aging Milltown Dam.

"This is good news for the citizens of Montana and the state, federal, tribal and industry groups involved in drafting the agreement," said Robert E. Roberts, Regional Administrator for EPA's Region 8 office. "They worked long and hard to develop a plan that will benefit the people and their environment. It was a huge and collaborative undertaking, and it's an important milestone in the process that will now allow the long-awaited cleanup of the area to begin."

Under the consent decree, the Atlantic Richfield Company—a subsidiary of British Petroleum—has agreed to remove almost 2.5 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Milltown Reservoir. The Milltown Dam spillway and related structures will be removed so that recontamination does not occur and so that the cleanup of polluted ground water at the site will be completed quickly. Following this work, the State of Montana, acting as the lead natural resource damage trustee, will implement a streambank channelization and revegetation effort that will enhance fish habitat and be compatible with redevelopment of the area.

The settlement also requires that both Atlantic Richfield and NorthWestern provide funds for historic preservation, bull trout mitigation, mitigation for a state-owned bridge and highway in the area and reimbursement for past and future federal response and oversight costs related to the Milltown project.

This agreement will result in the cleanup of decades’ worth of contamination caused by the downstream transport of mining wastes from extensive upstream operations in Butte and Anaconda. It will lead to safer drinking water for Milltown residents, improved native and sport fishing, local economic redevelopment and improvement of conditions in the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers in southwestern Montana.

The agreement follows other settlements with Atlantic Richfield in the Clark Fork Basin under which cleanups will proceed and the state and federal governments’ costs will be reimbursed. The parties plan to continue their negotiations in an effort to reach further agreements on the cleanup of other locations, such as the Clark Fork River, Anaconda and Butte in the Clark Fork Basin which are contaminated by mining wastes.

EPA anticipates that the remediation and restoration will occur over the next six to seven years. Redevelopment efforts will be led by the Milltown Redevelopment Working Group, a local community-based organization that has crafted a site reuse plan which has been adopted by the Missoula County Commissioners. Site reuse actions are scheduled to follow remediation and restoration of the sites.

The consent decree and other information related to the Milltown site can be found at:http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/sites/mt/milltowncfr/home.html