Like many residents of Columbia Falls and the Flathead Valley, I am deeply opposed to the EPA’s preferred plan to clean up toxic waste at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) site. In fact, it shouldn’t be considered a clean-up at all. Rather than remove the waste and restore the site, the EPA plans to simply bury 1.2 million cubic yards of dangerous contaminants like cyanide, fluoride, and arsenic, on site. This would effectively render the 960-acre site off-limits from most human uses forever, as well as pose a continuous threat to local water wells and to the health of our Flathead River.
As the population of our valley rapidly increases, every bit of space is precious. Imagine that instead of a toxic waste dump, this site at the mouth of Badrock Canyon provided affordable housing, hiking, and biking trails connecting the town, new trails at Cedar Flats and future trails up Teakettle Mountain. New light manufacturing or commercial businesses could provide good-paying jobs, while the rest is open space for wildlife and people.
None of this, or anything else, is possible if the EPA’s proposed Waste in Place “remedy” goes through. Yet the EPA hasn’t even conducted a feasibility study of a complete clean-up. We must demand that they do. And we need our county commissioners and Gov. Greg Gianforte to do likewise! We only have one chance to get this right. Let’s not miss it.
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