December 15th, 2009 Smurfit Stone Container Corporation announces the permanent closure of the expansive pulp mill just West of Missoula. 417 workers were told they had two weeks before they had to find a new job. For an explanation as to why, Smurfit President Steve Klinger writes in a brief statement that mills were “high-cost facilities that do not provide adequate returns over the long term for the company.” The immediate economic impacts of Frenchtown and Missoula are enormous. At the time, Smurfit-Stone was the second-largest taxpayer in Missoula County, second only to NorthWestern Energy. January 14th, 2010 Smurfit-Stone’s Environmental Affairs Office states: “The company plans to remove all hazardous materials from the mill site.” On the last shift of the last day, the engines stopped, the gates closed and the parking lots emptied out. More than a decade later, after Smurfit-Stone dropped a mess in the heart of Missoula County, An industrial graveyard filled with sludge ponds, discarded heavy equipment and toxic metals sit dangerously close to our beloved Clark Fork River. Empty clean-up promises by shell companies inheriting Smurfit’s liabilities have done nothing to remove the hazardous waste pools that today sit seeping toxins into groundwater. Inaction by the state legislature, the EPA, and ownership will not be tolerated any longer. In collaboration with The Clark Fork Coalition and Pintler Group podcasts, Welcome to “Toxic: The Mess at Smurfit-Stone” . Follow along as we explore what’s beyond the “No Trespassing Signs” surrounding the 900 acre Smurfit complex. What’s the plan, and what can we as Missoulians do?
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