Billings, Mont. — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding the Billings PCE site in Yellowstone County, Montana, to the National Priorities List (NPL). The Billings PCE site is among four sites across the nation being added to the NPL to address contamination concerns posing significant human health and environmental risks. EPA is also proposing to add another 13 sites to the list and is withdrawing a previously proposed site.
With this Superfund NPL update, the Biden-Harris Administration is demonstrating a commitment to updating the NPL twice a year. By pledging to add sites more regularly to the NPL, EPA is taking action to protect the health of communities across the country while cleaning up and returning blighted properties to safe and productive reuse in areas where environmental cleanup and jobs are needed most.
“EPA recognizes that no community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, pray, and go to school. By adding sites to the Superfund NPL, we are helping to ensure that more communities living near the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination have the protection they deserve,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to increasing funding and working with Congress on the bipartisan infrastructure deal to provide the Superfund Program with the resources it needs to address a backlog of sites awaiting cleanup, as well as additional sites in need of cleanup.”
“The addition of the Billings PCE site to the National Priorities List will ensure a comprehensive evaluation and response to groundwater contamination and indoor air quality concerns in the Billings area,” said Betsy Smidinger, Director of EPA Region 8’s Superfund and Emergency Management Division. “We look forward to working with our state and local partners, and to building our relationships with community residents and leaders, as we begin the site investigation process.”
EPA originally proposed the Billings PCE site for addition to the NPL on September 1, 2020, with support from the City of Billings and then Montana Governor Steve Bullock. A 60-day public comment period followed, during which no adverse comments were received. Current Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, the Riverstone Health Department, and the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leader’s Council have also expressed support for adding the site to the Superfund list.
“During an investigation, we learned that vapors were getting into people’s homes and DEQ’s first priority was to protect the health and safety of residents in the area of the Billings PCE site. At this time, listing the site is the best way to help the community secure long-term cleanup of the historic contamination,” said Jenny Chambers, Administrator of Montana DEQ’s Waste Management and Remediation Division. “In partnership with EPA, we look forward to engaging the Billings community on a path toward a safer future.”
EPA’s next step will be to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study to determine the nature and extent of contamination, assess potential threats to human health and the environment, and evaluate various cleanup options based on the information collected. Throughout the process, EPA will continue working closely with our state and local partners, including the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
EPA, in partnership with Montana DEQ, will conduct robust community outreach and involvement activities as we begin the site investigation and throughout the entire Superfund process. These efforts will ensure that the entire community and stakeholders are kept involved and informed of our work and future clean-up plans.
The Billings PCE site consists of a contaminant plume in shallow groundwater associated with multiple historic releases, extending approximately three miles under a mixed-use area to the northeast of downtown Billings. The plume contains chlorinated solvents (mainly tetrachloroethylene or PCE) from area laundry businesses, with isolated pockets of petroleum hydrocarbons from leaking underground storage tank facilities.
Chlorinated solvents can vaporize from the groundwater, move into air, and accumulate in the indoor air of overlying structures. 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. Exposure to chlorinated solvents from inhalation has been associated with short-term effects such as nausea as well as long-term conditions, including neurological, liver or kidney effects, and certain cancers.
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.
EPA proposes sites to the NPL based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan.
Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in both birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24 percent within three miles of sites after cleanup.
Further, thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously blighted properties for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. As of 2020, EPA has collected economic data on 632 Superfund sites, finding 9,900 businesses in operation, 227,000 people employed, $16.3 billion in employee-earned income, and $63.3 billion in business-generated sales.
For more information on the Billings PCE site visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/billings-pce
For information about Superfund and the NPL visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund
For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for NPL and proposed sites visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sites