Posted: Jul 4, 2012 2:14 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 4, 2012 2:40 PM
DARBY- It looks like it will be next year before cleanup starts on a contaminated mill site in Darby but that's still welcome news after years of waiting for the next step on the land.
The old Champion mill site on the north end of Darby has been largely unused for more than a decade, waiting for hazardous materials to be cleaned up before it can be re-purposed for the future.
This year the cleanup is closer than it has ever been as International Paper and state agencies have been discussing the next steps.
Darby Mayor Rick Scheele says the town has been watching that process closely, anxious to see the vacant land put back to productive use. And the latest word is that the cleanup could finally start next year.
"Well they're talkin', they're hoping that maybe the assessment from DEQ will be done by the first of the year, which will be 2013. Once they acquire the property and get the title clear they'll want to come in and start cleaning up some of the old buildings that are in there. So, hopefully that will put some people to work here in Darby," Scheele said.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has analyzed the land and mapped out areas to be cleaned up as well as exactly what has to be done in each area. If the 40-acres were to be used for residences, the cleanup would have to be more extensive, and expensive. Scheele believes "light industrial" use, with a more basic cleanup is the town's best hope.
Because the south valley's economy is still struggling, the mayor says whatever use ends up on the International Paper site, it has to be something that doesn't cost the town money.
"The biggest concern that Darby has would be that we put something in there that's going to generate some revenue for the town to be able to maintain that property," Scheele told us.
He expects the next six months will help solve a lot of outstanding questions about the site, so the town can start making its own long-range plans and planning for the millions of dollars the cleanup will pump into the economy.