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Coalition working with EPA on an independent advisor for CFAC cleanup

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | May 1, 2024 2:00 AM

Mayre Flowers of the Coalition for a Clean CFAC said it was encouraging to have a dialogue with the company, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality during two open houses and meetings last week.

While not a formal public hearing, the event gave the public a chance to further weigh in on cleanup plans for the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. Superfund site.

“We very much appreciated being able to ask questions during the open houses and night meetings,” Flowers said.

The meetings were organized by the company, but both government agencies attended, along with contract experts.

Still, the CCC is bringing further scrutiny to the process. It was recently informed by the EPA that it would be receiving more technical help from the EPA. In an April 22 letter, CCC learned it would be receiving services through the agency’s Technical Assistance Service for Communities program soon.

It’s expected that the CCC will eventually be awarded a full TASC grant to fund its own technical advisor as the Superfund process continues.

The City of Columbia Falls used the same grant program when the Proposed Action for cleanup was released last year.

Karmen King, an advisor with EPA contractor Skeo, met with the community and residents and eventually crafted her own recommendations and suggestions for the cleanup of the site, but did not reject a slurry wall remedy. (See related story for more on slurry walls).

The CCC still has plenty of questions and look forward to working with an independent advisor, Flowers noted.

“I think there’s some real valid questions that need to be answered,” she said.

For example, there are companies that recycle spent potliner from aluminum plants. Spent potliner, the waste from the pots used to make aluminum, is one of the main pollutants at the site, leaching cyanide and fluoride into the groundwater.

The Proposed Action for cleanup calls for putting a slurry wall around the offending dumps which have spent potliner to contain the waste, rather than digging it up and hauling it away.