Objections raised over Stimson’s contaminated soil cleanup plan

Source: http://missoulian.com, October 24, 2011
By: Jenna Cederberg

The Bonner Milltown Community Council has joined a chorus of worry over a revised cleanup plan that would leave almost three acres of contaminated soil on the old Stimson Lumber Co. sawmill site in Bonner.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has accepted a revision to Stimson’s On-Site Repositories Construction Work Plan that calls for burial of a 2.8-acre pile of PCB-contaminated material in a specially designed repository at the former plywood plant and sawmill.

The change was proposed in June by Stimson Lumber Co. after a larger-than-expected amount of contaminated material was uncovered during cleanup.

While the DEQ is confident the repository plan passes muster, the Bonner council, Missoula City-County Health Department and the Missoula County commissioners say the contaminated material should be hauled away.

The Bonner council held a special meeting Thursday night to approve a letter to DEQ Director Richard Opper, stating their opposition to the proposed work plan revision, said member Gary Matson.

“Overall, our concern is just that we’re looking down the road a generation from now. It’s our responsibility to do something, if we can, that will preserve the quality of life a generation from now,” Matson said.

The citizens’ council wants three main concerns addressed, he said. First, the council believes that the worn, possibly cracked concrete lining in the repository will not be effective. Second, the two-foot cover proposed for the repository – even with clean material used as a cover – is not deep enough. It “in no way guarantees a healthy vegetation cover for the long term,” the letter said.

Lastly, the letter holds that the DEQ’s monitoring plan is insufficient.

The Missoula City-County Health Department addressed similar concerns about the burial in several letters to the DEQ, but has yet to get a response from the state agency, said Peter Neilsen, environmental health supervisor at the department.

The Missoula County commissioners also sent a letter of concern to the DEQ.

“Missoula County has consistently expressed its request that all contaminated materials be disposed of off-site and that the property be cleaned up to the highest possible standard,” the letter stated.

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On Friday, state DEQ project manager Keith Large said Stimson’s revision plan is solid.

“The agency … is not going to approve an on-site repository unless it meets … all of our requirements. The repository that Stimson is proposing meets those requirements,” Large said. “Whether it’s the federal government or the state, county or city, the government has a responsibility to implement cost-effective projects.”

The repository would cost around $500,000, while hauling the material to the Allied Waste landfill in Missoula would cost around $1.1 million. That $600,000 savings was enough for the DEQ to consider the repository, said Large.

Both Neilsen and the Bonner community feel the repository plan could affect public health and push off a lasting cleanup to a future owner.

“We regret that charge, but we have no way of knowing the cost or charge to the community in the long term. Should something develop in the future that would need to be cleaned up, what would that cost be?” Matson said.

Large said the repository has other benefits. Not only will it save money, project contractor Envirocon has assured the DEQ it can finish repository construction before the onset of winter.

Also, Large said the site’s potential new owner, Missoula-based Western Montana Development, is “OK with the on-site repository. They trust us to make sure the right thing happens.”

The Bonner community council’s letter also asks that if material removal isn’t an option, then DEQ should hold an informational meeting to address the concerns of the community and full explain how it will deal with risks.

Large said repository construction was stalled to make sure a public comment period was not needed. Both the DEQ and federal Environmental Protection Agency believe no official public comment is warranted and are not planning on holding any public comment period on the revisions, Large said.

However, Large will outline the changes for the county commissioners on Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the commissioners chambers. The meeting is open to the public.

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