Montana Superfund Site Cleanup Could Take 30 More Years

December 12, 2011

A project to clean up contamination caused by a former dry cleaner at a Bozeman, Mont. shopping center may take 30 more years and cost the city a total of $7.4 million.

City commissioners voted earlier this week to sign a contract agreeing to a cleanup plan for the Bozeman Solvent Site. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality still has to sign off on the proposal for the Superfund site.

City officials are eager to move forward, said Bozeman City Manager Chris Kukulski.

“I think the most important thing that (the contract) means is that we can get moving forward on the cleanup this summer,” Kukulski told The Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “That’s what we’re anxious to do and have wanted to do for several years.”

The contamination was caused by a former dry cleaner at the Hastings Shopping Center that disposed of the suspected carcinogen PCE through the sewer system. The substance was discovered at the shopping center in 1989.

The city has already spent more than $5 million on the site to pay for testing, attorney fees and the replacement of a water main, The city is expected to spend another $2.4 million as part of the ongoing cleanup efforts.

Not everyone has been happy with the process.

Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss has voted against every motion regarding the site that has come before the city commissioners.

“It just bothers me that we’ve taken 20 years and now we’ve finally gotten to the planning stage,” Krauss said. “I just think that’s a ridiculously long time.”

CVS assumed responsibility for the site in 2006 as part of its acquisition of the Osco Drug chain. The company and the city of Bozeman are responsible for remediating the site and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the process.

The state agency outlined its recommendations for the site in a decision last summer. Now that the pharmacy chain and the city have each agreed to the cleanup plan, state environmental officials are expected to hold a public comment period on the proposed contract.

The cleanup could start this summer if the document receives final approval, said DEQ project officer Kate Fry.

Efforts to remove contaminated soil and water from beneath the shopping center are expected to take up to five years, Fry said. But it will take much longer to fix the contaminated groundwater that stretches from the shopping center to the East Gallatin River.

The plan to eliminate the PCE could take up to another 30 years. That means the cleanup effort, from start to finish, could take a total of 50 years.

The Bozeman Solvent Site has been under constant monitoring, said Kukulski, the city manager.

“Ideally, it should have never happened,” he said. “But there isn’t anything dangerous about what people are living with or around today.”

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