Hearing Planned in Montana District Court Over Water Discharge Permit, Administrative Policy at Smurfit Stone Site
A recent motion filed in district court alleges the Montana Department of Environmental Quality broke its own administrative policy by transferring Smurfit Stone’s old wastewater discharge permit to the new property owners in Frenchtown, M2Green. Head of the Water Quality District at the Missoula County Health Department Peter Nielsen discussed further investigation details.
"They are investigating soils and groundwater at the site to begin to determine the extent of contamination left at the site after the mill closed. That's never been done until this point," Nielsen said. "The major parties are two corporations known as West Rock, Corp. and International Paper."
Neilsen said a district judge will hear arguments this week from a motion filed by the Missoula City-County Health Board and three other plaintiffs.
"What happened there is that the Montana DEQ transferred the former paper mill's permit to the new owners of the mill back in 2011. We contend they should not have done that," Nielsen said. "Those transfers are only allowed for routine, sort of name changes on the permit. Then, in 2013, they renewed the permit and carried over certain aspects of the previous paper mill permit."
The Missoulian said the DEQ filed a cross motion in August, "contending the Clean Water Act doesn’t require the agency to terminate Smurfit's permit, even when it announced that it planned to shutter the mill and sell the property."
Opening arguments will begin on Wednesday in Helena.