Clean up the dumps. Remove the berms. Restore the floodplain.
THE SMURFIT-STONE PULP MILL operated on the banks of the Clark Fork River near Frenchtown from 1957 to 2010, discharging enormous amounts of wastewater into the river. More than a decade after the mill closed, the 3,200-acre industrial site is still leaching harmful chemicals into the river and our aquifer. It’s time to clean it up.
Sitting along four miles of the Clark Fork downstream of Missoula, Montana, Smurfit-Stone is poisoning the groundwater and river with dioxins and heavy metals. These pollutants threaten fish and wildlife and put the health of Tribal subsistence fishers at risk.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that International Paper, WestRock, and Wakefield are the companies responsible for fixing this mess. EPA began site studies in 2015 but it still has not completed adequate sampling. Rigorous sampling of contaminated soil and water is critical to ensure a thorough, science-based cleanup.
Full cleanup is still decades away. It’s time to start.
Cleanup of the Clark Fork and its Floodplain Cannot Wait Another 13+ Years
We commend the EPA for committing to conduct additional sampling to adequately characterize the site’s contamination. Once this sampling is complete, the EPA must move quickly to remediate the site and should prioritize action on roughly 140 acres at the heart of the site contaminated with dioxins, furans, manganese, and other highly hazardous waste sitting in unlined waste and sludge dumps. We know that these pollutants are in contact with groundwater—which then flows to the river. The Clark Fork cannot serve as a permanent disposal mechanism for Smurfit’s pollution.
Not only are the dumps leaking, the only thing separating much of this wasteland from the river is a crumbling berm that’s riddled with rodent holes. You can listen to experts discuss the history of the site, how the river moves within the floodplain, why it’s unsafe to eat the fish, leaking contaminants, the illegal burden of the berms, and more on our podcast.
LISTEN to Toxic: The Mess at Smurfit-Stone
After decades of citizen action and tens of millions invested in restoration, the hardworking Clark Fork River is finally on the mend. And yet the contaminated Smurfit-Stone site continues to pollute the river we’ve all worked so hard to clean up. It’s time to do something about it.
No more excuses. We can clean up the hazardous wastes at Smurfit and stop the daily trickle of toxins into the river.
You can be part of the solution.
Contact the EPA
Tell EPA to take action now to clean up Smurfit.
Sign our Letter of Support
I support the cleanup of waste dumps at the former Smurfit-Stone mill site.
Share Activate & Engage
Short on time? Follow us, share a Smurfit-Stone post, and track the cleanup. #CleanSmurfitNow
Local Partners Say Clean Smurfit Now
Clark Fork Coalition protects and restores the Clark Fork River by removing pollution, defending clean water, and rehabilitating degraded streams.
American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature.
The Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) is a student directed and funded non-partisan organization dedicated to affecting tangible, positive change through educating and empowering the next generation of civic leaders.
Hellgate Hunters and Anglers educate and inform hunters, anglers, and others about ethical hunting and fishing as well as the biological culture and spiritual values of hunting and fishing.
- American Rivers’ Most Endangered Rivers 2023 Report
- FAQs about the Smurfit site
- Channel Migration Zone Study: Findings related to Smurfit-Stone site
- EPA website and progress reports on Smurfit-Stone Mill Site
- Fish Consumption Advisory near site from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (2020 advisory)
- Facebook page for the Smurfit-Stone Community Advisory Group
- Preassessment Screen of the site, its pollution, and impacts on natural resources (report by site’s State, Federal, and Tribal Trustees)
- “Toxic” podcast
In the News
- Missoulian opinion from CFC on toxic fish at Smurfit – March 2021
- Missoula Current article on EPA release of Draft Human Health Risk Assessment – Feb. 2021
- Missoulian article on updated fish consumption advisory – Dec. 2020
- Missoulian opinion from Hellgate Hunters and Anglers – Sept. 2020
- Missoulian article about the 140 acre hot spot – Aug. 2020
- Missoulian opinion from Peter Nielsen – Aug. 2020
- NBC Montana story on floodwaters potentially releasing Smurfit toxins – May 2020
- Missoulian opinion from Karen Knudsen – May 2020
- CFC ‘Riffles Field Update’ on Smurfit – Fall 2018
Requests for Action
- CFC comment letter on Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment (BERA) and Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) – Feb. 2021
- Abt Associates comments on BERA – Feb. 2021 (cited in CFC Feb. 2021 letter)
- CFC follow-up letter to EPA re: feasibility study to clean up waste dumps – Nov 2020 (EPA response)
- CFC comments to EPA on the groundwater conceptual site model – Oct. 2020
- Missoula Valley Water Quality District comments to EPA on the groundwater conceptual site model
- CFC request to EPA for feasibility study to clean up most polluted areas – Aug. 2020 (EPA response)
- Missoula County history of correspondence with EPA 2011–2017