$100 Million Settlement Reached For Cleanup Of The Milltown Reservoir

The Atlantic Richfield Co. and the NorthWestern Corp. have agreed to complete a $100 million-plus cleanup of the Milltown Reservoir in Montana, removing millions of cubic yards of contaminated sediments and decommissioning and removing the Milltown Dam, EPA and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials announced on Aug. 2.

The agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana (U.S. vs. Atlantic Richfield Co., DOJ Case Number 90-11-2-430), will result in the cleanup of decades' worth of contamination caused by the downstream transport of mining wastes from extensive upstream operations in Butte and Anaconda, EPA and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials stated. It will lead to safer drinking water for Milltown residents, improved native and sport fishing, local economic redevelopment, and improvement of conditions in the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers in southwestern Montana. The agreement follows other settlements with Atlantic Richfield in the Clark Fork Basin under which cleanups will proceed and the state and federal governments' costs will be reimbursed. The parties plan to continue their negotiations in an effort to reach further agreements on the cleanup of other locations in the Clark Fork Basin contaminated by mining wastes.

"We are pleased that Atlantic Richfield and the NorthWestern Corp. have agreed to the cleanup and restoration of the Milltown Reservoir area," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement follows other important settlements in the Clark Fork Basin and will substantially improve the environment and restore valuable natural resources for the people of Montana. This settlement adds to the momentum created by earlier agreements. We hope today's agreement will keep the parties focused on securing cleanup in the Basin by cooperation rather than litigation and will lead to similar future successes."

Under the consent decree, the Atlantic Richfield Co. -- a subsidiary of British Petroleum -- has agreed to remove almost 2.5 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Milltown Reservoir. The Milltown Dam spillway and related structures will be removed so that recontamination does not occur and so that the cleanup of polluted groundwater at the site will be completed quickly. Following this work, the state of Montana, acting as the lead natural resource damage trustee, will implement a streambank channelization and revegetation effort that will enhance fish habitat and be compatible with redevelopment of the area.

The settlement also requires that both Atlantic Richfield and NorthWestern provide funds historic preservation; bull trout mitigation; removal of the nearby Stimson Dam, mitigation for a state-owned bridge and highway; reimbursement for past and future federal response and oversight costs related to the Milltown project.

EPA anticipates that the remediation and restoration will occur over the next six to seven years.

The agreement will be the subject of a 30-day public comment period beginning with publication of the Federal Register notice for the settlement.

During the public comment period, the consent decree can be examined on the Department of Justice Web site: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

Additional information related to the Milltown site is available at http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/sites/mt/milltowncfr/reservoirou.html.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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