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Though no development application has been received for a property in northeast Bozeman that was partially removed from the Superfund list last year, officials from the city and the Environmental Protection Agency are getting ready for a complicated approval process.

During the second public meeting run by the EPA about the Idaho Pole property — which was the site of a wood-treating operation for decades in the 20th century that contaminated soil and groundwater — an EPA official said they will work with the city and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality on any development application.

The property has been the subject of concern for residents and business owners in northeast Bozeman since the city began an effort last year to establish an urban renewal district in the area, which would support more investment on the now-vacant property and open the door to its redevelopment.

Most of the property was removed from the Superfund list last year, though several acres of treated soil remain. The property is subject to institutional controls that restrict certain types of development or land use.

Roger Hoogerheide, the EPA’s project manager for the site, said in an email that interested developers have reached out to the agency about the property, but they have not received any written redevelopment proposals.

During the meeting, Hoogerheide said they would need to know where soils were going to be disturbed during redevelopment, and would require additional soil testing to see if contaminated soil would be touched. Hoogerheide said in response to questions that it is difficult to address residents’ concerns without a specific redevelopment proposal.

“The hesitation and discomfort local community members have expressed are understandable given the uncertainty that exists before a redevelopment plan is proposed,” Hoogerheide said. “If there were one development plan everyone was looking at, it would be easier to discuss how EPA and DEQ would propose to manage environmental risks posed by this plan.”

The EPA has floated the idea of establishing an agreement with the city to formalize their roles in a development approval process.

The idea is still on the table, Hoogerheide said, and Bozeman economic development specialist David Fine said the city would be open to an agreement.

The city is the lead on reviewing development proposals, Hoogerheide said, but the EPA will collaborate with them and DEQ in reviewing site plans.

{p dir=”ltr”}In any proposal, Hoogerheide said EPA and DEQ would look for areas where they think there is potential for contamination to be released and what land use restrictions are in place.

EPA and DEQ would need to determine what testing is needed, Hoogerheide said, and would make an evaluation of human health risks based on the results. The EPA may recommend additional soil sampling, Hoogerheide said, or more plans for soil management.

During construction, Hoogerheide said they would likely want a representative of the EPA or DEQ onsite. A “worst-case scenario” would involve the treated soils spreading, Hoogerheide said.

“What keeps me up at night thinking about what institutional failure at Idaho Pole is spreading of the treated soils outside of that 4.5 acre boundary,” Hoogerheide said.

A third virtual public meeting about the Idaho Pole property is planned for Jan. 27.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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