Montana Public Radio

Area Of Billings Recommended For Federal Superfund Status

Sep 2, 2020
Originally published on September 1, 2020 5:53 pm

A federal agency proposed granting superfund status to an area of Billings, Mont. contaminated by dry cleaning chemicals.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Sept. 1 announced it’ll recommend a roughly 855 acre area in Billings be added to the National Priorities List as a federal Superfund site.

Officials say the plume could affect around 1,100 structures in central and downtown Billings.

EPA project manager Roger Hoogerheide says if the site wins federal superfund status the agency will conduct indoor air investigations.

“We’ll be looking at all those variables to determine which homes are the most at risk and, if they are at risk, we will work at the property owners to determine the appropriate measure to mitigate the indoor air concentrations that are in either the home or the business," Hoogerheide said.

Officials say the groundwater contamination is due to solvents that dry cleaners dumped down the drain until the 1970s and 1980s.

They say those chemicals, mostly tetrachloroethylene (PCE), could lead to cancer causing vapor in some local buildings. They found evidence of PCE in some of the structures they tested.

Billings homeowner Anna Weidinger says she lives in the center of the plume and is concerned about the health risks.

“If it has been seeping into my house, then I’ve been breathing it in for nine years, I don’t know what effects that may have on me or future children," Weidinger said.

EPA says federal superfund status would open the site up for federal funds for further study, cleanup resources, testing and mitigation.

If accepted as a superfund site, the area’s status could be finalized in spring 2021.

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