Posted: Nov 9, 2012 6:11 AM by Cristy Aranguiz - KPAX News
Updated: Nov 9, 2012 9:38 AM
FRENCHTOWN - Residents gathered Thursday night to learn about the fate of the old Smurfit Stone paper mill site, and whether or not the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found dangerous toxins that could affect their health.
Many folks gathered at Frenchtown Junior High for the meeting to hear what Missoula County officials goals are for the site, which has been idle for over three years.
"We want to know what our participation levels should be, we want a seat at the table and we really appreciate them asking how we feel about it," resident Debbie Lester said.
She and other heard from Ray Stillwell, the owner and manager of M2Green Redevelopment LLC, which acquired the property in May 2011.
"We saw this 3,200 acre site as a great opportunity for redevelopment in a community that we thought would be, or think will be, very responsive to the two areas of focus that we have which are alternative energy and recycling," Stillwell explained.
A representative from the EPA also spoke to the crowd about their analysis on contamination at the site and in the surrounding areas.
"Our findings concluded that there is contamination at the site, there is contamination migrating off the site, migrating into the river and ground waters," EPA Site Assessment Manager Rob Parker said.
"The process offers an opportunity for continual involvement from the community and moving forward, what the cleanup actions might be," Parker explained.
But for some residents, just getting the discussion about the property going seems to be enough.
"We're very anxious to see some development out there. We're very appreciative of everybody coming out and talking about this issue and giving us all this information and the opportunity to ask questions, so we look at this as progress," Lester said.
No decision yet has been made on whether or nor the old mill will be designated as a Superfund site.