What’s the Big Deal?

If waste in place is implemented at CFAC, the contaminated soils will be a direct threat to our health and livelihoods

By Gary Hall

Some may and have been asking, “What’s the big deal about the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) cleanup.” I am hoping to give just some bullet points on the importance of this issue before us as a community and valley.

1. The CFAC site is on 960 acres below the Cedar Flats well site.

2. There are numerous toxic well sites on the CFAC site that have extremely high levels of toxins, far above safe drinking water levels, some dump sites identified some not.

3. There is an estimated 1.2 million cubic yards of toxic contaminated soils, equivalent to five football fields and 50 yards deep.

4. Cyanide, fluoride and 40 other different chemicals are in the well sites.

5. Glencore/CFAC/ARCO had $250 billion in revenue in 2022. If the Environmental Protection Agency rules to only put walls (waste in place) around toxic sites then Glencore will only end up paying $50 million. The community, the Columbia Falls City Council, Flathead County Commission, and Coalition for a Clean CFAC have stated they want the material hauled away, which is totally possible. 

6. Hauling product by rail off the site is what the community did at the Bonner mill site east of Missoula. It had waste removed and is now a beautiful and productive site.

7. If left in place with concrete walls around the toxic waste (waste in place), it will be used for industrial and commercial purposes with much of it fenced off from public access.  Contaminated groundwater will leak under the slurry wall eventually.

8. The Coalition for a Clean CFAC and citizens are asking the Columbia Falls City Council and the County Commission to re-engage with the EPA before its final remediation decision in March. The city represents approximately 6,000 urban population and 9,000 rural, all in 59912 zip code. We (the community) want the councilors and commissioners (the loudest voices in the room) representing all citizens in 59912 zip code and the valley to request a pause on the EPA’s final decision on remediation.

9. The EPA’s preferred cleanup method includes keeping the contaminated soil in place (waste in place), which will limit what future uses can be done in the area, including housing and public access. That is simply unacceptable to the Flathead Valley. Simply put, if waste in place is implemented, the contaminated soils will be a direct threat to our health and livelihoods for generations to come. Watch for petitions being passed around and please sign the petitions and or go online and sign them at cleancfac.org.

Gary Hall
Columbia Falls

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