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Support Rings Out for Stimson Pond Cleanup

October 11, 2008

By Moy, Chelsi

BONNER – Residents voiced strong support Wednesday night for removing tainted sediment from a cooling pond on the Stimson Lumber Co. mill site near the Blackfoot River and urged for a quick cleanup so as not to interfere with the marketing of the industrial spot to new companies. “My concern is creating jobs in this community,” said Scott Cooney, a Missoula resident who bought and plans to develop the old lumberyard across the river from the mill site. “Are we going to have no new job creation for two years?”

Dick King, president and CEO of the Missoula Area Economic Development Corp., submitted a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality praising the state’s efforts and Stimson’s cooperation. MAEDC asked the state to make the cleanup a top priority “to clear the way for recruitment of companies that can bring new high-quality jobs to the Bonner community.”

“It’s a wonderful industrial site,” King said. “Until the environmental issue is taken care of, no one will touch it.”

Approximately 40 people attended Wednesday’s public meeting and informational session held by the DEQ at Bonner School to discuss the toxic sediment discovered in the cooling pond. The state is seeking public comment until Oct. 10 on ways to clean up the toxic pollution.

There’s an estimated 85,000 cubic yards of sediment containing polychlorinated biphenyls and petroleum hydrocarbons, both of which are cancer-causing agents. The state learned of the contaminated sediment at the end of 2005 when looking at potential impacts to the river associated with the removal of the Milltown Dam.

There is no risk to people or wildlife at this time. Most of the sediment is contained behind a large berm that stretches out into the Blackfoot River. In 2007, the federal Environmental Protection Agency paid to have the berm reinforced. It allowed the state time to conduct further sediment sampling and work with Stimson to correct the problem.

The berm is stable enough to withhold a 10-year flood, but water levels higher than that cause serious concern for state officials. Even a 25-year flooding event could erode parts of the berm, allowing for the possibility of sediment to escape, said Keith Large, DEQ project manager on the cooling pond remediation project.

The preferred cleanup method identified by the state involves removing the sediment and hauling it to the Missoula landfill by truck. The state looked at the option of hauling the sediment into Missoula by train and then loading it into trucks to take to the landfill, but thought better of it because it added an additional step.

However, the state recommends the trucks hauling sediment use the mill site’s west gate, as opposed to the main gate closest to the cooling ponds, to avoid excessive truck traffic in front of Bonner School, Large said.

A best-case scenario has cleanup beginning during the summer of 2009, Large said.

In addition to creating new jobs on the mill site, Cooney expressed concern about the groundwater migration patterns. Cooney submitted an application to the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for a community water system for the development he is proposing on the old lumberyard adjacent to the mill site. He wants to make sure groundwater under his property is clean to drink, and is also concerned about the groundwater under the mill site. Stimson owns the mill site, but Cooney is interested in purchasing it.

Stimson representative Steve Petrin attended Wednesday’s meeting not to comment but to “get the pulse of what the people think.”

“It’s something we’re concerned about and we plan to work with DEQ to get things cleaned up.”

Stimson plans to submit comments to the DEQ about its proposed remediation plan prior to the October deadline.

Copyright The Missoulian Sep 18, 2008

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