Tester, Baucus call for study to determine contamination levels at CFAC

Senators urge EPA to work with local leaders to identify whether cleanup efforts could create new jobs

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are calling on the EPA to study whether contamination levels at the shuttered Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) plant pose a risk to the community and to future business.

Glencore, which owns CFAC, closed the plant outside Columbia Falls in October 2009. Since then, Tester and Baucus have worked with Glencore and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to re-open the facility, but factors such as volatile metal prices have kept it from re-starting.

Tester and Baucus are now urging the EPA to study contamination levels at the site to determine whether it should be declared a Superfund site – which could create new jobs cleaning up hazardous materials and support new business opportunities for the region’s economy.

“We are concerned about an indefinite delay in economic opportunities at the site and support the community’s efforts to explore all options for remediation,” Tester and Baucus wrote the EPA. “Due to the complexity of the site we urge the EPA to swiftly commence a site assessment of the CFAC production facilities for a listing of Superfund.”

Tester and Baucus want the EPA to assess the risks posed by the plant’s decades-long handling of hazardous materials, including cyanide and zinc. They specifically call on the agency to study the plant’s solvent landfills and wastewater ponds that handled plant discharge until the 1980s.

The CFAC plant began producing aluminum in 1955, with production reaching 180,000 tons of aluminum by 1968. At its height, the plant employed 1,500 people and was central to the area’s economy.

Tester and Baucus for years fought to secure a reasonable power contract between BPA and Glencore, meeting with company local officials, company executives and government representatives. They most recently discussed CFAC’s future with U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman.

Tester and Baucus’ letter to EPA Region 8 Acting Administrator Howard Cantor is available below.

2013-03-05 CFAC Letter to EPA Re Remediation by danmalessa