River News & Brews: When the Berm Fails

Tuesday, June 18 | 6-7:30pm | Alberton Community Center


The only thing separating the Clark Fork River from ill-constructed holding ponds brimming with toxic waste at the abandoned Smurfit-Stone pulp mill site is a shoddy, permeable berm that stretches on for four miles. If that berm failed, the site would release a catastrophic 300 billion gallons of wastewater containing a laundry list of toxic heavy metals and other dangerous contaminants into the river. Given increasingly extreme weather trends and the outdated algorithms used to calculate the risk of environmental disasters, the conversation has, troublingly, moved away from questioning if and towards an inevitable when.

It’s not hyperbole to say that this question keeps many of us at CFC up at night.

To better understand flood risks at Smurfit, the Clark Fork Coalition and American Rivers commissioned River Design Group, a local engineering and restoration firm, to construct a hydraulic model of the site that explores potential implications of various berm failure scenarios under current and future climate conditions.

This study suggests that the berm at the Smurfit site will not prevent a future catastrophe and that storing toxic waste adjacent to the Clark Fork River is an unsafe gamble with substantial ongoing risk for the river and downstream communities.

River Design Group will be presenting on their findings, with CFC Staff Scientist Sam Carlson facilitating and a Q&A to follow. Free beer and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided.

Looking for additional ways to get involved?

We’ve made it easy to get the scoop on Smurfit’s history, understand the current risk it poses to ecological and human health, and take action: