Champagne corks popped recently in the office of the Clark Fork Coalition, a Montana environmental group. On April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency sided with the Clark Fork River, calling for the removal of the Milltown Dam and its toxic reservoir, just east of Missoula.
thrilled,” says Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the
coalition. “This is an example of how an environmental issue
turned into a community issue — this is how you can achieve
victory in this political climate.”
Nearly a century
of mine and smelter runoff, poisoned with arsenic and metals,
drifted downriver from Butte and Anaconda to the small
hydroelectric dam, where the Clark Fork meets the Blackfoot River.
It’s part of one of the nation’s biggest Superfund
The 1,100-member Clark Fork Coalition built local
support for the cleanup, until even Montana Gov. Judy Martz, R, an
industry stalwart, supported it. During a visit to Missoula, Martz
suggested that the Lord was on the side of breaching the dam and
removing toxic sludge behind it. “God has a plan, too,”
she told the Washington Post. “We have to help Him by
cleaning up the sediment. Then He will do the rest.”
The $95 million cleanup bill will go to the corporations
that inherited the liability when they bought the mining sites and
the dam — Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco), BP (British
Petroleum), and Northwestern Energy.