Montana dam breached to allow for toxic cleanup and removal

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The Milltown dam at the confluence of Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers, just upstream of Missoula, MT, had been accumulating toxic wastes from mining uprivers including arsenic, zinc, copper and other heavy metals, thus making it a superfund site. FERC decided to decommission the dam in January 2005 to clean up these toxic chemicals.

American Whitewater (AW), an active HRC member was present along with hundreds of other people to witness the rivers flowing free. On Friday morning, a small channel was dug through the temporary coffer dam built last year to allow for diversion of water. The water quickly began eroding the coffer dam and carving off large chunks of sediment. By next morning the coffer dam was gone and the river was flowing free after a century. Watch this short video by AW showing the breaching of the dam.

The next two big tasks will be the clean up the river bottom and eventually remove the dam. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking the lead to clean up this superfund site.