Local health officials have submitted a letter outlining concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s potential delisting of a Bozeman Superfund site, urging for more soil and groundwater testing.

The EPA announced in July its intent to remove the Idaho Pole site from a national list of contaminated areas, saying it’s ready for development. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality agreed with the assessment.

The Gallatin City-County Board of Health and the Gallatin Local Water Quality District Board are concerned the site has not been sufficiently vetted and fear risks of lingering contamination.

The site was home to a wood-treating business in northeast Bozeman until 1997. It was added to the EPA list in 1986 after it was found to be contaminating soil and groundwater with pentachlorophenol and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The site located off Cedar Street near Interstate 90 consists of 87 acres of land.

The EPA wants to delist 82 of those acres.

Steve Custer, a hydrogeologist, sits on both the health and water quality boards. He said he’s not convinced adequate testing has been done to ensure that land can be developed safely.

“This is about protecting human health. And I’m risk averse,” Custer said.

Custer said the government cannot rely on a potential buyer of the land to complete the testing necessary to ensure it’s clean enough for development.

Custer, and a number of other board members, first voiced concerns at an Aug. 7 meeting of the boards and the EPA. When asked at the meeting why delisting was proposed, Roger Hoogerheide, an EPA project manager, said that “there’s an emphasis with the new administration in Washington, D.C.” to delist contaminated sites.

City and county officials voted unanimously to submit formal concerns to the federal agency and asked for an extension of the public comment period. The EPA obliged the request and gave people until Sept. 6 to weigh in on the proposed delisting.

In the letter co-signed by the health and water quality boards, officials listed concerns related to soil testing, 300,000 gallons of petroleum hydrocarbon spilled on site, smearing of that contaminant, soil vapors and inadequate collaboration with local governments.

The letter also asks for a “clear, comprehensive statement of scientific rationale” to prove the delisting would not be harmful to human health.

Rich Mylott, an EPA spokesperson, wrote in an email the agency is still evaluating the concerns listed in the letter and plans to respond in the next few weeks before it makes a final decision regarding the delisting.

Mylott wrote the EPA has made “returning properties to safe and productive use” a priority over the last several years. He wrote that the agency plans to meet with local government officials next month to discuss what commercial development of the site could look like.

Local officials would like more of a formal agreement in place going forward, like a memorandum of understanding.

Matt Kelley, Gallatin City-County public health officer, said the EPA and local government should be on the same page before a decision is made.

“If and when this gets delisted, the burden for making development decisions will fall more on local governments and local taxpayers. And so when making decisions about how to delist, having conversations with the locals who will shoulder that burden would be helpful,” Kelley said.

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