EPA gives county commissioners assurances, updates

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The Lincoln County Commissioners received updates April 24 from the EPA and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

EPA site manager Mike Cirian said settlement money dedicated to the Libby Superfund Site operations and maintenance phase has grown to over $12 million from $11.5 million.

He noted an additional about $5 million went to the state of Montana.

“So there’s almost $17 million in that fund,” he said.

Cirian slightly narrowed down figures for what will be left from the EPA cleanup of the site, estimating it would be between $7 million and $10 million.

Cirian said some things still have to be paid for with that money. He added that the EPA has sent letters to Montana Governor Steve Bullock and to the Lincoln County Commissioners stating that money remaining from the cleanup will be set aside for future expenses related to the Libby Superfund Site.

“The intention of that is to be used after O&M funding has completed,” Cirian said. “And so, that is out there and on hold. So, that’s really about all we can speak to that.

“So, everybody knows, that money — that’s where the monies that we know of are right now,” he said.

Cirian also referenced Montana legislation providing $600,000 a year for ten years for the operations and maintenance phase.

Commissioner Mark Peck asked Cirian if the remaining money from the cleanup will require Congressional help to access for future expenses.

Cirian replied that the budgeting and requests for money would work similarly to the about $17 million set aside for the operations and maintenance phase.

“Now if Congress finds out that money’s there,” Cirian added, trailing off with a chuckle.

“Well that’s kind of the concern,” Peck responded.

“It’s for all of us,” Cirian said.

“We need to pay attention to that,” said Stan Christensen, EPA Region 8. “We need to emphasize that it needs to stay there.”

Cirian also addressed the legal and financial responsibilities for property owners dealing with “material left behind.”

Cirian said homeowners are only held responsible for regular maintenance under the Record of Decision for the site.

“They’re not responsible if they run into vermiculite, and it says in the RoD that will be dealt with through O&M and (Institutional Controls),” he said.

Cirian said the operational and functional phase is a time to work out any “bugs,” and could potentially be extended prior to moving into operations and maintenance.

Lisa DeWitt, project manager with DEQ, said that there are currently four operable units in operations and maintenance: unit 1, Riverfront Park; unit 2, the recently delisted screening plant; unit 5, the Lincoln County Port Authority; and unit 8, the transportation corridors.

DeWitt said that DEQ is working with the City of Libby on an environmental covenant for unit 1, and after that is taken care of, they will be able to pursue a partial deletion for that unit.

They are currently working on covenants for unit 5 as well, she said. However, its colocation with the Libby Groundwater Superfund Site has led them to put that on hold until now.

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