Plans for Belt Creek cleanup continuing

Efforts to build a water treatment plant on Belt Creek are continuing.

Earlier this week, staff from the Montana Department Environmental Quality updated Cascade County Commissioners on the project, which is slated to reach the 30 percent design mark in January.

Project bidding is anticipated next summer with construction and initial plant operation occurring in fall and winter of 2019, according to Autumn Coleman, Abandoned Mine Land Program Manager at DEQ.

The plant will be located on property bordering 5th Street South, near the location of the Anaconda Belt Mine discharge.

County CDBG needs: Belt drafting first growth policy, zoning regulations; Eden Community Hall in need of repairs

DEQ acquired land for the project for $1 from the Montana Department of Transportation, Coleman told commissioners.


DEQ is proposing to keep the area in blue for the water treatment plant and transfer the land along the creek to the Town of Belt.

But the existing land surveys aren’t great and they ended up with a goofy looking property. Coleman said they’re working with county planning and the Town of Belt to adjust the property boundaries and just keep the portion needed for the plant and transfer the rest to Belt, which would adjust the town boundaries.

Coleman said they’re working on a quiet title action that will be filed in district court to clean up the property boundaries.

Once the plant is built, Coleman told commissioners that it would require at least one full-time employee for the startup, but after that they’re not sure how the plant will be staffed. Coleman said an employee has to be local since the plant can’t be operated remotely. The department is working with the Belt public works department to see if there’s a way to share an employee in some fashion.

Belt Mayor Jim Olson said during the commission meeting, “the Town of Belt is very excited to have a clean creek again.”

Coleman said funding was identified for the program and the department has established a trust through the Montana Board of Investments to operate and maintain the plant in perpetuity. The Abandoned Mine Lands Program began a water treatment fund in 2010 to finance this project with money received from the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Additional funding will be provided by the Montana Department of Natural Resources Reclamation and Development Grants Program, according to a DEQ project fact sheet.

Coleman said the federal AML funding is currently set to expire in 2021, but they’re hopeful Congress will renew the program, but set up the trust to operate the plant in the event that the federal dollars are not continued.

Tetra Tech Inc. is the primary design engineering firm and according to DEQ, the 30 percent design that’s expected in January will address:

  • stability of the plant foundation;
  • hydraulic bulkheads (plugs) to address acid mine discharge on the east side of Belt;
  • pumping test evaluation to test the mine pool to determine if mine water can be reduced by pumping out the flooded portions of the mine;
  • slug testing to assess the abandoned mine’s capacity to accept sludge produced by the water treatment plant;
  • geotechnical studies along the sludge pipeline;
  • risk elimination in the water treatment plant; and
  • equipment sizing.

Bill Snoddy, Abandoned Mine Land Project Manager at DEQ, updated commissioners on the Cottonwood Mine in Stockett.

DEQ has been designing a collection system since the current system, which has been in place for about 30 years, has failed and acid mine drainage is seeping down the hill.

Snoddy said DEQ wants to get the issue addressed before the drainage hits private property and wells.

The project includes building an apron on the ditch and a second ditch to collect seepage from the mine. They’ll also do a lime amendment and seed the area to stabilize the hillside, Snoddy said.

A $37,370 planning grant from DNRC helped cover the cost of developing the bid documents and Snoddy said they’re hoping to get a construction grant, but that will require hearings and approval during the 2019 Legislature, Snoddy told commissioners.

If that doesn’t happen, they’ll use funding from the AML federal grant and other sources.

Snoddy told commissioners that they’re hoping to go to bid in February and do construction over the summer once the soil is dry enough.