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More samples being taken for flooding contamination at Smurfit berms in Missoula

Posted at 9:05 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 23:05:51-04

MISSOULA – Agencies are taking more water samples along the berms at the old Smurfit Stone mill site after a drone overflight shows suspicious water near the site of a groundwater “boil” that was spotted last week.

The property owners placed some fill along the berm as a precaution over the weekend.

But the latest video shows dark-colored water along the berm. Missoula County says the EPA is taking additional samples Wednesday, but the county may take some of its own samples as it monitors for leaks of contaminated water from past mill operations.

The county says readings were taken to see if the river water or the lagoons are higher. But with the turbidity of the river and the changing water levels, it’s difficult to analyze.

“There’s some complicated hydrogeology going on there that we believe those interactions are still occurring, showing material leaving the site entering surface water," said Missoula County Environmental Health Specialist Travis Ross. "That’s another area where we’ve become concerned and want to know what’s in that material.”

Ross says the samples should give everyone a better idea of whether contaminants, including heavy metals, are entering the river. If that turns out to be the case, he expects the EPA would come up with a contingency plan to deal with the leak.