EPA proposes Billings PCE site for Superfund cleanup
Proposed addition to the National Priorities List is subject to a 60-day public comment period
Billings, Mont. --The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed adding the Billings PCE site in Yellowstone County, Mont., to the National Priorities List (NPL), making it eligible for additional study and cleanup resources under EPA’s Superfund program. The proposed listing will be subject to a 60-day public review and comment period beginning on September 3, 2020. The Billings PCE site is among five sites EPA is proposing to add to the NPL today, along with the final addition of six sites to the list.
Under the Trump Administration, the Superfund program has re-emerged as a priority to fulfill the agency’s mission. EPA’s renewed focus has spurred action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect the health of communities, and return contaminated land to safe and productive reuse for future generations.
“Communities with sites on the National Priorities List are a true national priority under the Trump administration,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Many of the sites we are adding today are in vulnerable, low-income, and minority communities that deserve our attention. EPA is demonstrating our commitment to assist overburdened communities in becoming cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous places to live, work, and go to school."
“I am pleased to hear that another Montana Superfund site will be prioritized for clean-up by the EPA. This decision is great news for folks in Billings and will ensure this site receives the resources and attention needed to protect the health of communities and restore this property for homes and businesses in Billings,” said U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT). “I will continue working with the Administration to ensure Montana Superfund sites receive the attention and resources needed for comprehensive clean-up.”
“EPA and the State of Montana have determined that the Superfund process is the best path forward to ensure a comprehensive investigation and address potential human health risks at the Billings PCE site,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “We will review all comments received on this proposal and will continue to work with our state and local partners to address contamination at the site for the benefit of the Billings community.”
"This is a positive development,” said Billings Mayor Bill Cole. “The PCE plume is not going away any time soon. Being added to the NPL will make it easier to access federal dollars for monitoring and mitigation in the future and may be very helpful."
The Billings PCE site consists of a contaminant plume in shallow groundwater, extending approximately three miles under a mixed-use area to the northeast of downtown Billings. The plume contains mainly chlorinated solvents from area laundry businesses, mainly tetrachloroethylene (PCE), with isolated pockets of petroleum hydrocarbons from leaking underground storage tank facilities.
The primary health concern at the site is vapor intrusion. Chlorinated solvents can vaporize from the groundwater, move into air, and accumulate in the indoor air of overlying structures. A person breathing this contaminated indoor air could experience immediate symptoms such as nausea to more serious long-term conditions including neurological, liver or kidney effects, even certain cancers. Although there are no known potable uses of the shallow groundwater, a person might also be exposed if they drink contaminated water from irrigation wells or use irrigation water for recreational purposes.
The City of Billings supports the proposal to add the Billings PCE site to the NPL and Montana Governor Steve Bullock has concurred. The Riverstone Health Department and the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leader’s Council have also expressed support for the proposed action. EPA will carefully evaluate all public comments received on the proposed listing before making a final decision.
The NPL includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.
Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24% within three miles of sites after cleanup.
Redeveloped Superfund sites can generate substantial economic activity. Thanks to Superfund cleanups, previously blighted properties are now being used for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses and solar power generation. At 602 Superfund sites returned to productive use, 9,180 businesses operate with 208,400 employees earning more than $14.4 billion in annual income.
Community members are key partners at Superfund sites, and their early involvement leads to better cleanup decisions, including those about a site’s future use.
Today’s actions are, in part, the result of EPA putting the recommendations of the Superfund Task Force to work. EPA jump-started progress at sites that had long-standing obstacles; took early action to address immediate risks; increased the number of sites that can be returned to communities for reuse; and incentivized work by potentially responsible parties. Since the completion of the Superfund Task Force’s work one year ago, the recommendations have been integrated into the Superfund program and at all NPL sites. The agency will continue to prioritize expediting cleanups to protect human health and the environment across the country.
For more information on the Billings PCE site and how to comment on today’s proposed action, visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/billings-pce
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