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Missoula County takes Smurfit site owners to court - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula County takes Smurfit site owners to court

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Dennis Bragg photo. Dennis Bragg photo.
Dennis Bragg photo. Dennis Bragg photo.
Dennis Bragg photo. Dennis Bragg photo.
MISSOULA -

Fed up with the pace of cleanup, and frustrated by hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, Missoula County is filing two major civil actions against the company which owns the former Smurfit Stone mill site. 

The Wednesday morning filings come after several years of ownership by M2Green, which purchased the mill and its surrounding 3,000 acres east of Frenchtown following its shutdown. M2Green had promised to scrap the mill and redevelop the site into the "Frenchtown Technology and Industrial Center" in 2013. 

However, most of the activity on the property has merely been to tear down the former mill buildings. M2Green has complained its redevelopment has been hampered by the Environmental Protection Agency's review of cleanup plans for the site.

Missoula County commissioners have been increasingly irritated with the delays, and with M2Green's delinquent property taxes. The county has now announced it's filing a civil complaint against M2Green using new legislation allowing the county to seek judgment.

The county is asking the court to order M2Green to pay all proceeds from a scheduled auction of equipment and "fixtures" from the mill site, with a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing M2Green from selling assets until the case is resolved.

The second complaint comes from the Missoula City-County Health Department and says M2Green is "maintaining community decay, a public nuisance, and health code violations by accumulating waste and garbage on the Frenchtown site." 

Recent tests from the EPA have shown there are contaminants on the site which need cleanup. And county officials and local groups like the Clark Fork Coalition have continually expressed fears the holding ponds along the mill land could be breached by floods, releasing contamination downriver. 

The county is also going to ask the state for funding help to support cleanup and restoration of the mill property.  M2Green has run into similar legal challenges with other industrial properties it has purchased in Canada. 

Click here to view the court documents filed in the civil actions.

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