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Atlantic Richfield Pays $187 Million to Clean Montana River
BUTTE, Montana, February 7, 2008 (ENS) - Decades of mining activity in Butte and Anaconda has contaminated the sediment, banks and floodplain of the Clark Fork River with heavy metals that harm plant and animal life in the river and along its shores.

Today, the Atlantic Richfield Company, ARCO, agreed to pay $187 million that will finance a major cleanup along 120 miles of the Clark Fork River and other areas in southwestern Montana, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

Up to $103.7 million from the settlement will be available to finance various remedial actions along the river between Warm Springs and Missoula, Montana.

Upper Clark Fork River - East of Warm Springs, Montana (Photo by Deb Wambach courtesy Montana DOT)

The work will include extensive revegetation of stream banks and removal of areas devoid of vegetation contaminated with mine tailings.

Contingency plans in the settlement provide for additional funds if necessary.

An additional $7.6 million from the settlement will reimburse the federal government for past response costs, and $3.35 million will compensate for natural resource damages at the historic Grant Kohrs Ranch managed by the National Park Service.

"This settlement brings to a close prolonged litigation over these large Superfund Sites in the Clark Fork Basin," said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “All parties can now focus on finalizing settlements and completing the Basin cleanup as quickly as possible.”

"The environmental benefits will go directly to local landowners with improved soil, and extend to all Montanans through cleaner water and improved fisheries," said Robbie Roberts, EPA's regional administrator from Denver.

The State of Montana is a party to settlement and will be the lead government agency conducting the cleanup using the funds secured in the settlement.

As part of the settlement, Montana is resolving its natural resource damage claims against ARCO at the Clark Fork River Site as well as sites in Butte and Anaconda for a payment of $72.5 million, which the State will use to finance additional natural resource restoration activities along and upstream of the river.

The consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court in Butte, is subject to a 60-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Read it on the Department of Justice website.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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