Judge: Arco Partly Responsible For Aluminum Plant Cleanup

COLUMBIA FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that the Atlantic Richfield Co. is partially responsible for millions of dollars in cleanup costs at the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. plant that it sold more than 35 years ago.

Arco owned the aluminum smelting plant just north of Columbia Falls from 1978 to 1985 before selling it for $1. The sale took into account $7 million in expected shutdown costs and absolved Arco of any liability after 1990, the Hungry Horse News reports.

CFAC ran the plant until 1999.

Columbia Falls Aluminum sued Arco under the Superfund law, claiming Arco was responsible for the bulk of the pollution at the now-closed plant.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy agreed that Arco was partially responsible, but that CFAC was equally, if not more, culpable, since it knew groundwater at the site was contaminated with cyanide and fluoride, but did little about that while it ran the plant.

Molloy set Arco's future responsibility at 35% of cleanup costs, along with $4.3 million of the $22 million CFAC reports it has already spent.

Earlier this year, CFAC released a $57 million plan to consolidate and contain the waste leaking at the site of the former plant.