OWNERS OF FORMER SMURFIT-STONE MILL SHARE INSIGHT ABOUT POTENTIAL SUPERFUND STATUS, EXPERIENCES AT OTHER SITES
MISSOULA, MONT., Nov. 8, 2012
At a public hearing held tonight, owners of the Frenchtown paper mill shared their opinions about talk of a potential Superfund designation for the site and shed insight on their own environmental clean up successes. In a preliminary assessment of the site, the EPA identified “potential sources of contamination” within one specific area of the 3,200-acre site, but that “sampling data does not indicate an emergency situation currently exists.” Further, according to the EPA’s findings they “do not believe there is an imminent human health danger posed by the site.”
Ray Stillwell, member/manager of M2Green Redevelopment, LLC, owner of the property since May 2011, addressed the crowd saying, “As with any industrial site we acquire, we fully expect that the EPA will find some level of contamination. We’ve already begun discussions with the EPA and will work in cooperation with them and the State of Montana to remediate the designated area.”
Stillwell pointed to his previous experience with managing a highly severe case of contamination at a site in Alton, Ill., using private monies when it was recommended the site be declared a Superfund. The project Stillwell referenced in his presentation was the clean up of a steel mill on the banks of the Mississippi River, which was acquired from a bankrupt company in May 2003. The 90-year-old mill had asbestos, tanks and containers of various contaminants such as sulfuric acid, PCBs in the ponds and soil, waste oil and grease, clarifier sludge, lime residue, lead and chromium wastes, and more, all causing the site to be considered as a Superfund candidate.
Stillwell says, ”This site was a mess and posed a hazard to nearby residents that had to be informed of potential contamination. We were looking at a substantial clean up process. By developing a remediation plan in cooperation with the EPA we were able to use private funds, clean up the property, pass all EPA standards as requested and put people back to work . . . 350 people who still have jobs today. Had we not worked cooperatively with the EPA, the redevelopment of that property and the creation of those jobs would have been held up for years. We didn’t want that for Alton and we certainly don’t want that for Frenchtown. ”
According to the EPA, the typical timeframe for clean-up and remediation of a Superfund site is three to five years. Should the property be designated a Superfund site, M2Green Redevelopment will continue redevelopment efforts during that time as the designation does not deter progress from being made at the site. “We have all of the components that could help make this a really great redevelopment story,” said Mark Spizzo, also member/manager of M2 Green Redevelopment, LLC. Spizzo has a strong background in economic development and believes in the redevelopment potential of this property.
Since purchasing the property, M2Green Redevelopment has analyzed and repurposed as many of the site’s assets as possible, prepared a rail line agreement with Montana Rail Link and entertained interest from several prospects who believe the property has potential for their business expansion or relocation.
“What we need now is as much support as we can garner from local officials, community members and the media alike in pointing to the positive aspects of the property and all it has to offer prospective tenants. We do a disservice to all of the stakeholders when making negative references about the redevelopment process. What we should be doing is working together to make it happen in an environmentally and economically responsible manner.”
At the meeting, Stillwell emphasized that the entities affiliated with Green Investment Group have extensive and specialized expertise in environmental remediation, pointing not only to the Alton project, but to their work in Canada and other states in the U.S. “We have created jobs and turned things around in other communities. We do have a track record in redevelopment of properties that have thrown down more challenging road blocks than those in Frenchtown. We just want people to share in our enthusiasm and keep positive while we do what we know how to do - restore, redevelop and revive inactive industrial sites while being good stewards of our country’s resources.”
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Superfund Status of the former Smurfit-Stone Site in Frenchtown, MT
- 1. Is this a Superfund Site?
This site is not on the Superfund National Priorities List. The EPA has not made a decision to propose the site to the NPL. At this point, the EPA has released the Analytical Results Report to interested stakeholders and the public and will work collaboratively to determine a path forward to ensure that the site is fully characterized and any necessary cleanup occurs in a timely manner.
- 2. What is the EPA doing?
The EPA completed a preliminary assessment and site inspection in September 2011 and August 2012, respectively, at the request of Missoula County and Montana Department of Environmental Quality. A site inspection includes environmental sampling to determine what wastes are present at the site and if the waste is migrating off-site. The EPA collected samples from the surface soils and subsurface soils at the site, as well as from the groundwater, nearby domestic wells and surface water and sediment samples from the Clark Fork River, which flows by the western edge of the site.
- 3. What contaminants have been found at the site?
The data collected indicates there are multiple contaminants present above background conditions in the surface and subsurface soils at the site. Various dioxin and furan compounds, common byproducts of bleaching operations, were detected in the sludge ponds soils, emergency spill pond soils and the wastewater storage pond soils. Manganese was also detected at the site in the sludge pond soils and emergency spill pond soils. Phenanthrene and 4-methylphenol were detected in the emergency spill pond and a sludge pond. Based on the sampling results, the EPA does not believe there is an imminent human health danger posed by the site. The ponds with the highest concentrations of contamination are the sludge ponds 3 and 17, and the emergency spill pond 8. The primary treatment clarifier sludge was disposed of in the sludge ponds, so it makes sense that these areas have the highest concentrations of contamination of all the sample locations on site.
- 4. Does an emergency situation exist?
No. While documented releases to the Clark Fork River exist, sampling data does not indicate that an emergency situation currently exists.
- 5. What are the benefits of the NPL?
NPL placement ensures that a comprehensive investigation will occur, that any identified human and environmental risks will be addressed and, if necessary, that the problem will be cleaned up. The NPL provides access to technical and financial resources that are otherwise unavailable. In addition to funds for investigation and cleanup, NPL listing unlocks resources for communities to help them better understand the technical issues and guarantees that citizens and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide input in the process and comment on decisions before they are made. Community involvement is ongoing throughout the investigation and cleanup.
- 6. Who decides how an NPL site is cleaned up?
The federal government and states have the authority under the Superfund law to make the final cleanup decisions.
- 7. How soon could cleanup start?
It is too soon to speculate. If the site is proposed to the NPL a remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) is the next step in the process. This investigation will more fully characterize site conditions, determine the nature of the waste, and assess risk to human health and the environment. These are important factors that help inform the decision of appropriate cleanup options.