MISSOULA - Missoula County recently ratified a state of emergency concerning the garbage at a former homeless camp under the Reserve Street Bridge.
Officials say the hazardous waste left at the site is threatening the river, especially as the water levels begin to rise.
The water quality concerns have even reached the county health board.
Now, as cleanup efforts continue, Missoula County officials received an update on the conditions at the Reserve Street encampment at a public meeting on Thursday.
Officials are discussing the future of the land under the bridge as complaints continue to pour in.
"What we're doing now is not working," resident Ty Tenderich told MTN News last month.
Officials say since January, more than 66 tons of debris have been removed from the area.
"The work that the volunteers did was admirable. It is greatly cleaned up. That is important water. We still probably haven't seen the peak yet as far as the Clark Fork and removing this means that it won't be pushed downstream," said Missoula County Environmental Health Specialist Elena Evans. "In 2017, there was a larger effort, contracted services were hired, heavy equipment was used and about 20 tons of waste and debris was removed from the area that year."
Evans also explained a Notice of Violation (NOV) given to the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) — the property owner — in 2019. "At the point the NOV was issued, it was essentially a call for a larger group collaborative effort, and that is what happened."
MDT is seeking legal clarification and help from the Missoula County Sheriff's Office to remove any remaining campers in the area.
"That Notice of Violation is still in place, it is still waiting on what happens within the courts, but we are still hoping with the larger collaboration of folks who have been working on this to date to figure out a long term plan," said Evans.
Just a few months ago, area residents shared their own concerns with MTN News about the area.
"Having a two-year-old, I want to be able to play with my kid in the street, and I don't feel like I can do that confidently when there's needles across the street from my house," said resident Ty Tenderich.
Residents of the former camp have been relocated to a sanctioned camp with property sanitation facilities, including bathrooms and trash receptacles.