Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus recently fired off an email to the Environmental Protection Agency, urging them to study the land around the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company. In the latest twist, Tester staffers say the EPA has agreed to look into a reassessment of the old mill.
"Glencore just continues to, I think, delay what we know the inevitable is," said Mike Shepard.
Shepard, a former CFAC employee and Columbia Falls council member knows all too well about hoping and wishing for the 58-year-old plant on Aluminum Drive to reopen.
"With the price of aluminum I don't think it means anything whatever the power is. They're just not going to reopen the plant," explained Shepard.
But there was a glimmer of hope at a Tuesday afternoon meeting with Senator Jon Tester. Staffers received an email confirming that the EPA would look into a reassessment of the plant. That could determine whether or not CFAC is designated as a Superfund site.
"There's opportunity for some cleanup jobs," Tester said. "And then there's an opportunity once it's cleaned up maybe figure out what the community would want to do with it to move forward. So it would be an economic driver to a place in the state that needs all the jobs it can get its hands on."
Shepard said he and fellow council members would like to see a potential cleanup crew consist of residents and former CFAC employees hit hard by tough economic times.
"We have such a lack of jobs for the 45-60 some year olds that worked at the mills," Shepard said. "There's just nothing... a lot of them are too old to go to the oil patch so as a result we would hope that they would put them to good use."
"There's a determination here - whether it's time to move on, or it's time to continue down this road of hope, false hope, however you want to define it," said Tester.
And with four year of false hope resting on the shoulders of the unemployed, they'll be looking to the EPA for an answer that's been hovering in their minds since CFAC shut its doors in 2009.