Columbia Falls Aluminum Company Site

A number of DEQ programs are involved in oversight of the on-going demolition and cleanup activities at the CFAC Facility, including the Hazardous Waste, Asbestos Control, and Opencut Mining Programs, and the Water Protection and Federal Superfund Bureaus.

Site History


Aluminum production starts at the Anaconda Aluminum Reduction Works near Columbia Falls. Spent pot liners are placed in an unlined onsite repository.


Atlantic Richfield Company Purchases the facility


The Site is registered as a large quantity hazardous waste generator and transporter.


Montana Department of Health and Sciences conducts a Preliminary Site Assessment at the site. Hazardous and solid wastes are found to be generated at the Site.


ARCO sells the plant to CFAC (Montana Aluminum Investors Corporation).


The Site is evaluated under the Montana Comprehensive Environmental Cleanup and Responsibility Act (CECRA). The Site is referred from the CECRA List to the DEQ Hazardous Waste Program as a generator of hazardous waste.


The Montana Department of Health and Environmental Sciences requires a groundwater investigation to determine sources of cyanide to the Flathead River.


Montana DEQ Permitting and Compliance Division requires removal of pot diggings material in surface soil.


Glencore purchases the plant from CFAC.


Last aluminum produced.


State Senator Dee Brown initiates EPA Superfund assessment of the CFAC Site.


EPA completes assessment and results are communicated to the public.

June 2014

DEQ begins talks with Glencore about the state having authority over the investigation so cleanup can be completed more quickly.

July 2014

DEQ provides draft Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) to CFAC for environmental investigation. The AOC would have provided CFAC and Glencore the opportunity to voluntarily work with DEQ to further investigate the site and evaluate cleanup options.

December 2014

CFAC ends negotiations with DEQ after DEQ and CFAC are unable to agree on the terms of the AOC.

February 2015

Governor Steve Bullock recommends National Priority Listing.

March 2015

EPA proposes the Site for listing under NPL.

April 2015

Calbag provides CFAC a plan for the intended demolition work.

June 2015

On June 10, 2015, DEQ, CFAC, and Calbag sign an Administrative Order on Consent to address anticipated violations for the Montana Hazardous Waste Act for storage of hazardous wastewithout a permit.

August 2015

On August 7, 2015 DEQ receives the Draft Waste Management Plan required by the AOC.

September 2015

DEQ sends the review letter to CFAC and Calbag.

November 2015

DEQ issues a Violation Letter to CFAC and Calbag for moving potentially hazardous material before submitting an approved plan as specified in the AOC.

November 2015

Updates are provided by Calbag and CFAC on the DEQ Violation Notice and site demolition work. Calbag halts all demolition work in Building One until the violation can be resolved.

November 2015

EPA approves the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) Work Plan and Phase I Sampling and Analysis Plan.

November 30, 2015

EPA and CFAC sign an AOC for investigation work under the RI/FS Work Plan. CFAC intends to complete Phase I field work by the end of 2016.

December 2015

Calbag submits Draft CFAC, Building 1, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recyclable Materials Waste Determination Summary Report.

January, 2015

On January 13, 2016 DEQ approves the CFAC Building 1, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recyclable Materials Waste Determination Summary Report (12 MB), a portion of the original plan. This approval allows for the recovery of valuable recyclable materials from Building 1.

March 2016

On March 8, 2016 DEQ received the Draft Final Waste Management Plan, including financial assurance for removal and disposal of hazardous waste from Building 1. This Plan is currently under review. No hazardous waste may be removed from Building 1 until the Waste Management Plan has been approved. DEQ will provide regular updates on the status of waste removal from Building 1 when disposal to an offsite facility begins.



Haz Waste Removal

CFAC is registered with DEQ as a large quantity generator of hazardous waste. There are 451 pot liners that need to be removed from Building 1 (Pot Room). Of an average 110-ton pot, approximately 60 tons will be contaminated and given the designation of K088 hazardous waste. There are three disposal facilities for K088-related wastes; Calbag has indicated that it may use U.S. Ecology out of Idaho or Chemical Waste Management out of Washington.


DEQ’s Asbestos Control Program has been providing direct compliance assistance and permitting for CFAC since April 2015. The work at the facility has been divided into manageable phases to allow for a thorough accounting of waste materials. At the point when an application for asbestos removal is received for a particular phase, a required notification for demolition is also submitted and processed.

As of February 1, 2016, 28,340 pounds of regulated asbestos waste, and 722,770 pounds of non-regulated asbestos material has been removed. Structures included in the removal are the West Rectifier, Rod Mill Building, Paste Plant, Quonset Hut, West Aluminum Unloader, Compression Building, East Rectifier and Potline Complex.

An asbestos project permit is in place through 2016 for the East Rectifier building. Demolition notifications remain in place for the East and West Rectifiers, Rod Mill Buildings and the Paste Plant.

Water Discharge

CFAC's first groundwater discharge permit was issued in 1984; this permit did not authorize a discharge to state surface waters. In 1993, after it was determined that CFAC was discharging to the Flathead River without a permit, the company submitted an application for an MPDES permit; DEQ first issued an MPDES permit in 1994, authorizing the discharge of process wastewater through groundwater to the Flathead River. In 1999, DEQ renewed the MPDES permit through 2004. Based upon CFAC's 2003 application for renewal, DEQ administratively continued the 1999 permit.

During spring 2013, DEQ determined that an updated permit application was required for renewal since the previous application was submitted in 2003, and outdated. Although CFAC had ceased all aluminum production from its facility in 2009, CFAC submitted its updated application in 2013 with the assumption that production could restart at any time. The renewed MPDES permit was effective September 1, 2014; however, CFAC has appealed portions of the renewed permit. The appealed portions of the permit have been stayed as a result of CFAC's appeal. The company's current MPDES discharge permit is set to expire in 2019. 

Industrial and Energy Minerals/Opencut Mining

On October 29, 2015, the DEQ Opencut Mining Program approved permit #2724 for the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company to obtain material from an area on the CFAC property east of the original aluminum plant location. According to CFAC, material obtained from the CFAC Borrow Pit will be used as back fill following building demolition activities. More information on this permit can be found at:

Superfund (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

On March 26, 2015, the EPA proposed adding CFAC to the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is the list of national priorities among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States. Adding a site to the NPL allows the EPA and the community to access significant technical and financial resources to address the environmental and health risks posed by the site.

The proposed listing was subject to a 60-day public review and comment period, which ended on June 2, 2015. The EPA reviewed and responded to all comments.   EPA has not finalized the listing of the Site to the NPL.

The next steps are the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS), which will be overseen by the EPA, in consultation with the State. The objectives of the RI/FS are to assess site conditions, determine the nature and extent of contamination, and evaluate alternatives to the extent necessary to select a cleanup plan. The RI/FS will expand on the screening level investigation already completed at the Site.

On November 12, 2015, Glencore/CFAC announced that there is $4 million in financial assurance set up to take the project through the RI/FS process. At the end of November 2015, CFAC signed an Administrative Order on Consent with the EPA for the RI/FS.

EPA does not have any data that indicate Columbia Falls’ municipal water supply is impacted. Columbia Falls’ water supply is a groundwater source more than three miles from the sampled source areas. The municipal wells are sampled regularly as part of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements for municipal water supplies. 

For more information, visit the EPA website.

Enforcement Actions

DEQ sent a Violation of Administrative Order on Consent letter to CFAC and Calbag on October 26, 2015. The letter stated that the companies were in violation for not presenting an approvable plan to DEQ for the removal of hazardous waste from the Pot Room Building as required in the AOC.

On November 12, 2015, Calbag stated that all demolition work in Building 1 has been halted until the violation has been resolved. DEQ has had several conversations with the companies to resolve the issue.


Cory Mikita


Hazardous Waste Removal
Phone: (406) 444-1435

John Benoit


Phone: (406) 444-5286

Christine Weaver


Water Discharge
Phone: (406) 444-3927

Colleen Owen


Opencut Mining
Phone: (406) 755-8966

Lisa Dewitt


Phone: (406) 444-6420