For Missoula, the Clark Fork River is the actual river that runs through it. Missoula counts on a clean Clark Fork as it is a central fixture of our environment, economy and identity.
When a century of mining and smelting released toxic mine waste into the Clark Fork, the contaminants traveled far downstream, piling up behind the Milltown Dam and poisoning the ground and water with arsenic and copper. With Missoula’s aquifer at risk, there really was no option but to take action. Millions of tons of contaminated sediments had to be dug up and hauled off. It was a big operation, but the Milltown Dam and the tailings behind it were removed to prevent further pollution.
For that we can thank the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. Missoula and Montana could simply never afford the cleanup costs on our own. No other program has the scope to deal with the severity of pollution at sites like this.
Though the Clark Fork cleanup and restoration work is ongoing, we already see remarkable improvements. Missoula’s aquifer is safe and our drinking water clean. The floodplain upstream from the confluence with the Blackfoot is restored, fishing is improving and Milltown State Park development is underway, making Missoula a safer and more enjoyable place to live, work and play.
Like many communities in Montana, Missoula has counted on the EPA’s Superfund program. We counted on it to secure the health of the Clark Fork upstream, and we are counting on it to secure the river’s health downstream as it flows past the former Smurfit-Stone site. Many Montana communities continue to live with the pollution of yesteryear, and are also counting on Superfund to build a brighter future.
Despite this obvious need, the Trump administration is proposing to slash $326 million from the Superfund program — approximately a quarter of its budget. Without adequate funding, we are concerned that the EPA will fail to meet its basic obligation to protect communities impacted by harmful pollution.
Fortunately, both of Montana’s senators, representing both sides of the political aisle and occupying seats on the Senate Appropriations Committee, have come out in strong opposition to these severe cuts. Now, we urge a vote for full funding for EPA’s Superfund program.
There is no time to waste: The current federal budget expires on Sept. 30.
The Superfund program has helped many Montana communities hard-hit by pollution recover and grow their economies. Cutting funding for the continued cleanup of the Clark Fork would undermine all our great progress. A strong and effective Superfund program can keep Missoula’s land and water clean and safe. Let our senators know you support full funding of the Superfund program.