FRENCHTOWN - Staff with the Environmental Protection Agency are a couple of weeks away from issuing a draft plan for cleanup work at the old Smurfit Stone mill site.
But a new wrinkle at the courthouse could also impact the level of cleanup, with the owners filing deed restrictions to block any future residential use of the mill lands.
EPA and state officials faced a full room of community leaders in Frenchtown as they updated work to sample the 3,200 acre site where mill operations stopped just over eight years ago.
They're still collecting data but the agency is close to issuing a "baseline" plan summarizes findings for contamination for wildlife and the environment, and future risks for people living in Frenchtown.
With a few exceptions at the center of the mill, EPA staffers say that most of the samples aren't showing high risk, although there's manganese and cobalt that could be impacting groundwater.
The agency had been studying cleanup sufficient for people to live at the mill site. But Project Manager Sara Sparks has learned the owners just filed a deed restriction so that won't ever happen.
She says more samples are needed before she can discuss the final cleanup plans.
"I can't tell you that. We're not through studying yet. But I hear what you're saying about the arsenic, treating the arsenic. We've got a lot of experience because of the mining sites in Montana and working on those," Sparks said.
"I hear what you're saying. We're still looking at that. But I can tell you there will not be any additional drinking water wells on that site or residential growth on that site," Sparks added.
That draft baseline plan should be ready for public review and input by the end of the month.