montana photograph Livingston
The story, like Livingston, centers on the railroad. Livingston was founded by the Northern Pacific railroad in the 1880s and made it a service stop for its engines. Livingston prospered. And then the railroad pulled out, leaving behind a superfund cleanup site a century later.
Bill Phillips, now 77, was a machinist for the railroad. He lives along the banks of the Yellowstone River east of town now and remembers oil and chemicals being just dumped onto the ground at the engine yards in Livingston.
I found a deer grazing near the superfund cleanup site.
Doug Thompson remembers working in the paint shop during his 34 years with the railroad. Thompson, now 71 and retired, lives a short walk away from the plant where workers were told to use a pressure hose to spray stripped paint and the stripping chemicals right out the door and onto the ground.
Dick Murphy now lives in a cabin built in 1883 along Mission Creek east of Livingston with his dog, Annie. Murphy says he worked for the railroad right out of high school and saw frequent large spills of diesel fuel.
Murphy, Thompson and Phillips were a few who started to speak out about the problems in the 1970s. They were branded trouble makers.
The story goes on to describe the cleanup efforts that are still ongoing, now more than 30 years later, as well as the lasting impacts of the pollution.
And the story describes Livingston, where we lived for three years in the late 1990s when we first moved to Montana. It’s a place that embraces its history, presenting itself as an authentic small town in the American West, with amenities to attract tourists to the world-class fishing nearby and the topography of Yellowstone National Park, only a short drive to the south.