FRENCHTOWN – The former owners of the Smurfit Stone mill are being given 30 days to decide whether they’ll participate in an assessment of the environmental damage caused by decades of mill operations.
The State of Montana, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Kalispel Tribe sent formal notice this week to the former owners of the Frenchtown mill, saying they intend to do a complete assessment of the contamination tied to mill.
Those agencies represent what are known as “trustees”, who are acting on behalf of the public which “owns” the natural resources, such as wildlife and fish habitat and water quality.
Pre-assessment screening has already shown evidence that the mill operations generated hazardous substances that were released from the site, including heavy metals and dioxins. The notice gives the “responsible parties”, or former owners and operators of the mill, an opportunity to participate in further studies. But it’s also a formal step in the process of holding the companies responsible for paying for damages, with claims that can end up in court.
The Environmental Protection Agency started additional water quality sampling at the mill this week.