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Seepage near Libby Creek nonhazardous, officials say

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | March 16, 2021 7:00 AM

Recreationalists walking the trail along Libby Creek were alarmed to find an orange-colored substance seeping into the stream in January, though officials have since deemed the runoff nonhazardous.

The seepage was first reported to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality on Jan. 15 according to Beth Archer, a community involvement coordinator for EPA Region 8. Just over a week later, the report reached the EPA and the agency sent out an emergency response contractor to assess the substance.

Archer said the seepage contained arsenic and iron but in levels that are too low to be considered dangerous by the agency. While the runoff is coming from near the Libby Ground Water Superfund site, Archer said it was unrelated to the site.

Reports suggest that the substance is coming from old log ponds left over from mill operations near the creek. EPA officials suspect the seepage is caused by the breakdown of organic material.

Based on the agency's assessment, Archer said the EPA does not have any plans to clean up the substance.

During a March 10 meeting, Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck (D-1) said he had noticed the substance along the creekside opposite to the trail in the past. Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2) pointed out that the material seemed to have previously coated rocks in a nearby channel.

Now that the seepage was appearing on the trail side of the creek, Peck anticipated officials would hear about it more frequently.

Bennett suggested putting up a sign in the area to put users of the trail at ease.