Milltown dam, located in Montana at the confluence of Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, holds back approximately 5Mm3 of mud laced with metals, one third of which is to be removed and deposited 161km away in a disposal site at Opportunity Ponds.

A Consent Decree has been formally agreed, outlining the responsibilities of the parties involved with the operation. NorthWestern Energy will contribute US$11.4M for the dismantling of the dam and power house while Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) will cover US$80M of the cost and is responsible for performing remediation work. The state of Montana is providing US$7.6M, taken from a US$225M settlement reached between ARCO and itself in 1998 for damage to natural resources.

The Consent Decree comes after three years of negotiations between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the state, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes and ARCO and NorthWestern Energy.

The decree will undergo a public comment period prior to confirmation by the US District Court and the public has 30 days to comment on the agreement.

The cleanup project could begin this autumn, with plans in place to remove the dam in 2007 and complete work in 2009.

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