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Clark Fork River Operable Unit

 Click on the map below for an interactive version

Clark Fork River Phase Break Map Click on Map to go Interactive Web Mapping application


“Slickens” along the Clark Fork River

 “Slickens” along the Clark Fork River.

Phase 1 cleanup, summer 2013.

Phase 1 cleanup, summer 2013.

For e-mail updates, please join our Clark Fork River list service.

Please click on the tabs below for more information on the Clark Fork River Operable Unit. Included are links to other agency websites that provide information related to the Clark Fork River Operable Unit.

The Clark Fork River Operable Unit (CFR OU) is part of the Milltown Reservoir/Clark Fork River Superfund Site. The CFR OU includes the Clark Fork River from its headwaters near Warm Springs Creek to Milltown Reservoir, just east of Missoula. The heavy metals (Cadmium, Copper, Zinc, and Lead) and arsenic in the Clark Fork River are from historic mining, milling and smelting processes linked to the Anaconda Company operations in Butte and Anaconda. The majority of the cleanup will occur along a 43 mile stretch of the river from Warm Springs in Anaconda/Deer Lodge County downstream to Garrison in Powell County. This is known as “Reach A.” The primary sources of contamination are tailings mixed with soil in the streambanks and historic floodplain. These sources threaten human health and animal and plant life. The 2004 Record of Decision describes the cleanup approach, or Selected Remedy. In addition to the ROD, the NRDP developed a Restoration Plan to expedite the recovery time for injured aquatic and terrestrial resources in and along the Clark Fork River. To the extent practicable, the Restoration Plan will be combined with the Remedy to maximize the use of resources.

Remedial Design / Remedial Action

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Montana Department of Justice, Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP), with additional oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Parks Service (NPS) for cleanup activities at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, are designing the remediation and restoration work to be done along 43 miles of the Clark Fork River from Warm Springs in Anaconda/Deer Lodge County downstream to Garrison in Powell County. Cleanup has started and is expected to take 10-12 years.

Consent Decree and Settlement Money

In 2008, 25 years after the state sued the Atlantic Richfield Co. for damage to natural resources, a settlement was reached and a federal judge signed the consent decree. The state received $123 million from ARCO for cleanup and restoration of mining pollution in the Clark Fork River Operable Unit.

Attention Contractors

To be considered during an invitation for bid, a contractor must meet several criteria, including but not limited to being bonded and insured, a registered contractor with the State of Montana and trained (40 hours) in emergency hazardous waste operations (HAZWOPER). The DEQ will develop designs for various stages of the work. When the design is complete, the project will be put out for construction bid on the DEQ website at The bid is open for 30 to 60 days. The DEQ will respond to questions and hold a pre-bid conference. Bids are sealed and opened at once in public. The DEQ selects the lowest responsible bidder.

Phase 1 - Completed

The Clark Fork River cleanup, Reach A, Phase 1 construction was completed on April 4, 2014. Additional vegetation was planted in April and May, with more to be planted in fall 2014. Monitoring plans for vegetation and streambanks have been developed to ensure that the remedy is successful in the long term. This portion of the river, located just below the Warm Springs Ponds and running 1.2 miles north of the Morel Road Bridge, is closed to the public until September 15, 2015. This closure includes the floodplain and streambanks.

Phases 5 and 6 - In progress

Construction began summer 2014. Phase 5 and 6 involve two private landowners and cleanup on working ranches. The remediation project will consist of tailings removal on 4.5 river miles and is scheduled to last 400 calendar days. DEQ will continue to provide updates as the project moves forward. For monthly updates on construction progress, please join our email list here.

Phases 2, 7, 15, 16 - Preliminary Design

DEQ is currently working with private landowners and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch on the Preliminary Design Plans. These plans begin to lay out the design for the phases where future remediation work will be conducted. Updates will be included in the monthly fact sheets.

Evaluation of Eastside Road Pastures

After a year of little growth in the Eastside Road pastures south of Deer Lodge, DEQ is working with revegetation consultants to determine the next steps along with interim dust suppression until a long term solution can be implemented. Dust control in this area is a top priority for DEQ, and we are working rapidly to create a solution.



Brian Bartkowiak

Project Manager
P.O. Box 200901
Helena MT  59620-0901
1-800-246-8198 (in-state only)

Katie Garcin

Project Officer
P.O. Box 200901
Helena MT  59620-0901
1-800-246-8198 (in-state only)

Ben Quinones

Project Officer
P.O. Box 200901
Helena MT  59620-0901
1-800-246-8198 (in-state only)

Sara Sparks

CFR Support Agency Coordinator
U.S. EPA, Butte Office
400 North Main Street, Room 339 Butte, MT 59626