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Baucus and Tester ask EPA to evaluate contamination at Columbia falls aluminum plant
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Saturday, 16 Mar 2013

Billingsgazette reported that Mr Montana Sens Jon Tester and Mr Max Baucus have asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate contamination levels at the shuttered Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant.

The Democratic senators said they hope to determine whether the 120 acre industrial area could pose a risk to the community and jeopardize future economic development, and that a federal cleanup of the defunct plant could create new jobs. Glencore, which owns CFAC, closed the plant outside Columbia Falls in October 2009.

Both senators have since worked with Glencore and the Bonneville Power Administration to negotiate a long term power contract to restart the facility but bleak market conditions and volatile metal and power prices have kept it from reopening.

Mr Tester and Mr Baucus are now urging the EPA to study contamination levels at the site to determine whether it should be declared a Superfund site a designation that could create new jobs cleaning up hazardous materials and support new business opportunities for the region’s economy, the senators said in a news release.

They said that “We are concerned about an indefinite delay in economic opportunities at the site and support the community’s efforts to explore all options for remediation. Due to the complexity of the site we urge the EPA to swiftly commence a site assessment of the CFAC production facilities for a listing of Superfund.”

Mr Tester and Mr Baucus want the EPA to assess the risks posed by the plant’s decades long handling of hazardous materials, including cyanide and zinc. They specifically call on the agency to study the plant’s solvent landfills and wastewater ponds that handled plant discharge until the 1980s.

The community of Columbia Falls, through its local representatives, is now exploring other options for this 120 acre industrial area including cleanup. We applaud the community’s proactive approach to consider all options in the face of this economic tragedy.

The CFAC plant began producing aluminum in 1955, with production reaching 180,000 tonnes of aluminum by 1968. At its height, the plant employed 1,500 people and was central to the area’s economy. When it shut down at the end of October 2009, the closure forced the layoff of nearly 90 workers as high energy prices and poor market conditions made operations unprofitable.

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