Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus have sent a letter to the EPA, asking the organization to study contamination levels at the shut-down Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant. The plant’s owner Glencore, shut down the plant back in 2009, citing high energy costs.
The plant employed more than a thousand workers at the height of operations. Lawmakers have tried to get the plant back open, but so far, its fate remains unclear.
“Even those who got jobs through the college, most of them went over to Williston, North Dakota, and they’re working over there. They’ve left families and their kids, and there’s been separations and divorces,” said Barbara Jenkins, a barber in Columbia Falls.
Baucus and Tester are requesting the EPA look at the plant’s handling of hazardous materials like zinc and cyanide. If the location is declared a “Superfund” site, it could be cleaned up and the land could possibly be sold to a different company.
Some Columbia Falls residents tell NBC Montana they think Glencore should foot the bill for any cleanup that happens.
Larry Voss is one of those residents. He worked at the plant for more than 30 years. He says full-time work has been hard to come by.
"I've been looking, and being an old man, you know, it's kind of hard to go out and work with the 20-year olds," said Voss.
Folks looking to read the senators’ letter can click here.